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Kent's Land Use Board says no to marijuana businesses

Kent will remain the largest city in the state to ban recreational marijuana businesses if the City Council follows a recommendation by its Land Use and Planning Board.

After a public hearing Monday night where four people spoke in favor of a ban and three against it, the land use board decided it wouldn't allow recreational marijuana businesses in any part of Kent, the sixth largest city in Washington with more than 120,000 people.

After the council passed a six-month ban in April that expires in November, it asked city planning staff and the land use board to look at whether to zone the producers, processors and sellers of the drug as allowed under Initiative 502 approved by voters statewide in 2012.

"I think we are setting some high trends here with ShoWare (Center) and Kent Station," board member Randall Smith said. "I don't know if we want to be trendsetters in marijuana operations in our city. …I don't see an advantage in moving those operations here. You can buy it from Seattle or wherever why does Kent have to be the place to start producing, growing, distributing marijuana which is still illegal?

"For me and my kids there are already enough doors and avenues to get illegal drugs. We are opening another avenue for more illegal drugs and that's exactly what it is."

The state's first retail stores are expected to open in July. The state's largest cities of Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver and Bellevue are allowing recreational marijuana businesses and are expected to get the initial stores.

The council will discuss marijuana zoning and the land use board's recommendation at a July 15 workshop, Council President Dana Ralph said. The council plans to vote about whether to zone for marijuana businesses at its Aug. 19 meeting.

"It's uncharted waters," Ralph said during a phone interview Tuesday. "We want to make sure we do what's best for the city of Kent."

Board member Barbara Phillips agreed with Smith's opposition to marijuana businesses.

"It's about the quality of life that you want to live in your community," Phillips said. "I've seen over the past few months since this (I-502) passed with youth in the community an increase of use of marijuana and the impact that has in schools. I'm really concerned about voting for something that's going to further bring a hardship on families."

The land use board, an appointed group by the mayor and council, voted 6-0 to ban retail marijuana stores. Board member Alan Gray had an excused absence from the meeting. The board had two workshops with city staff about marijuana zoning prior to the public hearing.

Board member Katherine Jones made motions to allow processing and productions businesses in the M3 general industrial zone as recommended by city planning staff. Both motions were defeated 4-2, including a reconsideration vote after a 3-3 tie. Jones and Navdeep Gill were in favor to allow the businesses.

Tyler Jones, of Bellevue, who has applied to the state Liquor Control Board for a producer and processor business in Kent under the name of Orchardview West, told the board the facility he wants to open at 8031 S. 194th St., would be similar to a food manufacturing business.

"My neighbors are food manufacturers that have large uses of solvents, thousands gallons of ammonia, and we would handle ourselves in an appropriate manner partnering with the city and fire department," Jones said. "We are professional and responsible. We would like to be a part of the city if you'd like to have us. If you don't like to have us, we'll certainly find another location to do our business."

Board chair Jack Ottini said there are too many unanswered questions about the operations of the businesses to allow them. He also opposes that the state keeps all of the marijuana tax revenue that is taxed at 25 percent.

"I don't like the idea of the city being asked to do a lot of stuff when there is no revenue coming in," Ottini said. "That's tough to stomach."

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