The Ocean Shores Planning Commission is preparing a draft of recommendations to the City Council that still raise questions about the current proposed location for the retail marijuana sales license pending under review by the State Liquor Control Board.
The commission, previously divided on several issues about the proposed license, met last week and is expected to formally ratify its recommendations while the city continues a moratorium on such a business until August.
Planning Commission Chairwoman Chris Turcotte noted the existing recommendation needed to be polished, and Commission member Holly Plackett submitted several proposed changes, as well as what she called a minority report.
Plackett and fellow member Charlie Baer have both been opposed to the license on several different grounds.
Commission Vice-chair Jerry Mergler noted one question was whether the proposed B-1/B-2 zoning allowance for a retail marijuana store should include the current ability to have a residence above such a commercial establishment.
“I can visualize a retail marijuana store with a family living above it or behind it,” he noted. “Relative to being a planning commissioner, what should we be looking at? It raises questions in my mind how this is going to work out.”
Planning commissioners also continued to question the proposed location on Ocean Shores Boulevard, 662 Ocean Shores Blvd., and its relative distance from the skateboard park, the public beach or the new location for the Farmers Market.
The draft recommendation from the commission currently states:
“The majority of the Planning Commission supports the recommendation that one retail sales outlet for marijuana be licensed and sited within the city of Ocean Shores as provided in an updated version of our zoning requirements, provided that the issues surrounding the physical location of the retail sales outlet for marijuana sales are fully resolved, including the 1,000-foot buffer issue regarding the Ocean Shores skatepark, and the viability of the beach as a public park.”
“A majority of the Planning Commission members feel that the skatepark and the beach should be considered public parks and therefore fall into the 1,000-foot buffer requirement,” Plackett said, reading the recommendation.
The other issue to be resolved, the so-called pyramid zoning that allows for residential and commercial in the same building, also was to be added to the draft.
“I personally don’t have a problem with having residences above a retail store,” Turcotte said of the existing practice within the city. “We have allowed pyramid zoning. We are allowing residences above businesses. There are some positives about having residences above businesses.”
But Plackett argued that a marijuana business was different from a restaurant or other local shops that have residences above them. “I don’t think it’s the same as a liquor store. I don’t think it’s the same as a beauty salon,” she said.
Under regulations set up by the Liquor Control Board, no marijuana commercial establishments are to be allowed within 1,000 feet of “the perimeter of the grounds of any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, or library, or any game arcade admission to which is not restrict to persons aged 21 or older.”
Plackett urged the city to tell the Liquor Control Board of such issues with the skatepark and the beach when it receives final notice of the issuance of the license, which has been awarded to a company known as Green Outfitters, whose principal investors currently have a medical marijuana business in the Seattle area.
“The City Council is going to have to make those determinations,” she said. “We should be clear that when we made this recommendation, we felt we had a case for defining the beaches and the skatepark as public parks.”
In a special City Council meeting May 27, city staff and Mayor Crystal Dingler reported the state Liquor Control Board has indicated it does not consider either the beaches or the skateboard park to qualify under its buffer restrictions.
Also to be considered, Baer noted, was the proximity to the Ocean Shores Farmers Market, which would be located between the proposed retail store and the skateboard park.
Asked his opinion, Baer said it was “short and sweet. I think we should disallow it in the city. I think we have zoning problems and many other issues.”
Mergler questioned if the commission was straying too far. “Maybe we are looking at too many of the broader issues,” he said, noting that even the 1,000-foot buffer is a stipulation set up and governed by the state Liquor Control Board, not the city. “They are the ones who are ultimately gong to make that decision, as well as (the issue of) the beach as well as the mixed-use. From what I was told, that’s not an issue with them… . An apartment above a retail marijuana store is quite acceptable.”
The commission plans to review the recommendation at least once more before sending it on to the City Council. The commission meets again at 2 p.m. June 24.