City begins pot rule talks

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WALLA WALLA — The City Council is moving ahead with a plan to adopt interim ordinances to regulate future recreational marijuana stores.

At Monday’s work session, Council members agreed to hold a public hearing Wednesday night to discuss and vote on adopting local marijuana ordinances.

City Attorney Tim Donaldson recommended going forward with setting the ordinances, rather than enacting a temporary moratorium, which was the path Walla Walla County, College Place and many other communities in the region adopted.

Those moratoriums, however, were passed before the state Liquor Control Board last Wednesday approved rules businesses will have to follow.

“For the city of Walla Walla it makes no sense to play the moratorium game hoping that they will be sited someplace else,” Donaldson told Council in his report. “There are two (stores) that are selected to be sited in Walla Walla, and that is where Liquor Control Board says they are going to go.”

Also reviewed at Monday’s work session was a first look at where the two sales outlets could be located.

The State Liquor Control Board will require several buffer zone categories that mirror federal regulations, Donaldson said.

The buffers zones would require the marijuana stores to be located at least 1,000 feet from schools, libraries, recreation facilities, child care center, transit stations, parks and other public or child-centered facilities.

After mapping the various buffer zones, staff determined five neighborhoods where the two dispensaries would be allowed: along Rose Street between Avery Street and Myra Road; around the intersection of Pine Street and Myra; along West Tietan Street from South Fourth Avenue onto just past Stevens; along Isaacs Avenue from Criss Lane to just west of Tausick Way; and an area of several blocks of mostly industrial but some residential north of Highway 12 and southeast of 13th and Rees avenues.

Donaldson noted, however, that Liquor Control Board has changed its mind a number of times on buffer zones and regulations, and that the five locations are subject to future changes in state regulations.

“It has been a problem for us and for counties and other cities to go forward with local regulations because the Liquor Control Board, to be frank, just keeps flip-flopping,” Donaldson said.

While Walla Walla would only have minimum of two marijuana retail stores, the city could have numerous agricultural and processing business because Liquor Control Board did not put a cap on those facilities, Donaldson said.

The agricultural and processing facilities would still be required to maintain the regulated buffer zones.

As for zoning, Donaldson recommend recommended against establishing approved zoning using and, instead, suggested requiring conditional use permits for future marijuana businesses.

The proposed interim ordinances will be discussed at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, 15 N. Third Ave., 7 p.m.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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