Kent's Land Use board to have public hearing June 23 about marijuana businesses zoning

People will get a chance to tell the city of Kent's Land Use and Planning Board where they think Kent should allow recreational marijuana businesses or whether to allow them at all.

The land use board has set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Monday, June 23, in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 220 Fourth Ave. S.

Kent has a six-month ban against marijuana businesses that expires Nov. 27. The City Council asked city staff and the land use board to look at whether to zone the producers, processors and sellers of the drug.

City planning staff recommended to the board at a Monday workshop that if it allows marijuana businesses that the producers and processors only be allowed in the M3 general industrial district.

That area runs roughly north of Highway 167 from about South 228th Street to South 180th Street. The east borders are west of 84th Avenue South between 228th and 212th with 76th Avenue South the major west border. The zone narrows north of 228th to a small strip to 180th.

"The M3 zone is designed for industrial activities that have unusual or potentially deleterious operational characteristics," according to the staff report. "Potential adverse impacts of marijuana production are not specifically known at this time."

As far as retail stores, staff recommended to allow sales only in the gateway commercial zoning district.

That area runs roughly north of Highway 167 near South 228th Street along 84th Avenue South to about South 208th Street.

"This zone is not located within close proximity to residentially zoned areas," according to the staff report. "The intent of this option is to not overburden the Kent Police by locating these facilities in areas with historically high crime rates and to protect residential areas."

The above zones also comply with the state law that won't allow the state Liquor Control Board to issue a license for any marijuana business within 1,000 feet of schools, child care centers or other areas that attract primarily attract anyone ages 21 or younger who cannot legally use marijuana.

City Planning Director Fred Satterstrom told the board that Kent Police are concerned about retail marijuana outlets if they are located in high crime areas.

"Police are not saying marijuana retail use has a high incidence of crime," Satterstrom said. "What the police department is saying in conversations we've had with them and the reason we're showing the crime maps is the police department is urging planning staff to not make a recommendation to allow retail marijuana in areas that already have an higher incidence of crime because of the potential, not the documented proof, to exasperate the situation."

City planner Katie Graves told the board it could consider zoning for just certain marijuana businesses, such as allowing producers and processors but not retail sales or allowing retail but not producers or processors.

The state liquor control board has released a list of nine applicants it says qualify so far to open retail stores in Kent. The state will allow only three stores in the city based on its population. The state is expected to issue the first retail licenses in July, although Kent isn't expected to be on the early list because of its ban.

City staff determined all but three of the nine retail applicants are in violation of the state's 1,000-foot buffer from schools, day care centers and parks. A few dozen applications were sent to the state to open producer and or processor facilities in Kent. The city has received two official notifications from the state about applicants to be producers or processors.

David Galazin, assistant city attorney, told the board that the state takes all of the tax revenue from marijuana businesses. The city would get its business and occupation (B&O) tax from producers and processors and a portion of sales tax revenue from retail stores.

Board chairman Jack Ottini said the Legislature needs to do something so cities and counties share in the tax revenue.

"I don't want to see Kent jump in and think we're going to get rich when we're not," Ottini said. "It's still an illegal drug. If I thought we were going to reap 20 of the 25 percent (tax) I'd say let's go for it that would pay for a lot of programs. But the money is not there."

Galazin summarized for the board what the council wants.

"Ultimately, what you want to think about is you're going to tell the city council as a policy decision if you want to allow production, processing and retail in, we would recommend in this zone and this is why or that we recommend that we don't allow it and this is why," Galazin said. "The recommendation will go to council as a policy decision they will make their decision."

Galazin recommended against the city passing another moratorium.

"The purpose of that was to gather more information," he said. "It would be unwise to keep passing moratoriums. …before we do something. I think the council is looking for a recommendation from this body and then act on it."

The land use board could ask for a continued public hearing or another workshop after June 23 before making its decision, Galazin said.


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