Aberdeen Planning Commission sets public meeting on pot

The merits of expanding where to put retail, production and processing marijuana operations were discussed Thursday night as Aberdeen’s Planning Commission set a public meeting on the subject for Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Log Pavilion.

The commission was tasked with conducting the public meeting by the Aberdeen City Council after it voted in an interim zoning change that would allow retail, production and processing of pot in light industrial and industrial areas, Community Development Director Lisa Scott said.

The council passed the interim ordinance in time for license applications to be submitted to the state Liquor Control Board. Aberdeen has been allocated one retail license. More licenses are allowed for production and processing. Thursday was the last day to submit applications.

Several commission members are leaning toward expanding the zoning, allowing pot operations in commercially designated areas as long as city and state regulations are followed.

A retail outfit “is a lawful activity in all of the commercial zones with appropriate local conditions added for production and processing activities,” Chairman Brian Little said at the meeting.

Commmission member Jamie Judkins wants to consider rezoning a strip of light industrial along State Street to a commercial designation “rezoning them to match a downtown commercial zone.”

Member Randy Ross is in favor of putting the pot retail outfit “in an commercial zone” or “anywhere a flower shop or liquor store” could go.

Monika Kuhnau, a new member, who was excused last night, concurred with Little, Judkins and Ross in an email at the request of Little on Friday.

Though he opposes pot personally as a self-confessed “fuddy-duddy,” member John Martinsen said though he’d “really like to stop the state,” he will go along with the light industrial and industrial designations in the current interim agreement.

Several applications have been received by the state Liquor Control Board for retail and/or production and processing in the Aberdeen city limits. Some appear to be in commercially zoned areas. Only one retail outlet can be approved, more production and processing pot licenses can possibly be allowed, Scott and Little said.

Pot operations could “bring revenue in a commercial development zone and comply with all current regulations,” Little said. He envisioned an investor “dropping $1 million in the Becker Building,” to general laughter.

Scott reminded that state law says pot operations must be 1,000 feet away from schools, religious buildings and other areas.

“It is highly unlikely we will do a spot rezone,” said Little, rather the commission may recommend, after hearing from the public, that the ordinance be expanded to include commercial areas.

Resident Lin Butler, who is visually impaired and said she suffers from an extreme allergy to pot, is worried about a retail application for a building near the base of Think of Me Hill. A minuscule amount of pot put in her medicine caused her to swell up and “gain 35 pounds in three days,” she said, adding, “It’s terrifying, I am thinking of moving out of state because of this issue … I’m allergic to smoke and chemical anything.”

A consensus at the meeting was reached to ask a representative of the state come to talk about the pot regulations and that City Attorney Eric Nelson, who spoke to the commission at the meeting last month, be on hand along with the entire city council and mayor.

Little proposed making a brief presentation and then allowing the public to have their say. A report will be written for the city council, which will likely act on the measure in February, Scott said.

The commission meeting was originally scheduled for discussion of prospective rezoning from single family to multiple-family zoning for an area for development atop Think of Me Hill. Because of quorum concerns, the meeting was opened by Chairman Brian Little, who then continued the public meeting on that rezone until Jan. 9, on the third floor of City Hall.

Because there are two major commission meetings in January, the regular scheduled one on the third Thursday of the month is canceled, Scott said.


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