EVERETT — After a lengthy debate and comments from more than two dozen people, the Everett City Council on Wednesday adopted permanent rules governing recreational marijuana businesses in the city.
The new ordinance hews close to what Mayor Ray Stephanson’s administration wanted and represents a reining in of the Planning Commission’s looser recommendations.
It is also a bit tighter than the existing interim ordinance, which was set to expire on July 27. The new ordinance will take effect in 15 days.
The vote was a unanimous 6-0, with councilman Ron Gipson absent. However, the council also took several votes on amendments proposed by the city and local church groups.
The churches wanted to be added to the state’s list of sensitive uses, such as day care centers, schools and parks, that require a 1,000-foot buffer zone from any marijuana business.
Many of the comments were fueled by one entrepreneur’s plans to open a pot retailer across a busy thoroughfare from a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in the Eastmont area of south Everett.
Children are at the church for worship and other activities and shouldn’t be exposed to the pot business, some church members said.
“I would ask you to protect us just as you would protect others,” church member Mark Guymon said.
“I would hope that we fall on the side of safety for our community, not on the side of tax revenue,” he said.
Councilman Paul Roberts argued that from a land use perspective, it is difficult to regulate churches because the government would have to decide what counts as a church and what doesn’t. Furthermore, he said, the state’s list of sensitive uses appears to be working, and expanding it would limit the land available for those businesses even more.
Councilman Jeff Moore disagreed. “It’s straightforward, really. What we’re talking about here is places where people congregate, specifically children,” Moore said.
The council voted 4-2 to not include the buffer zone around churches, with Moore and Scott Murphy voting in favor of the zone and Paul Roberts, Brenda Stonecipher, Judy Tuohy and Scott Bader voting against it.
Jessica Jordan, the owner of the proposed store, Mari J’s Highway Pot Shop at 9506 19th Ave. SE, expressed relief at the outcome.
Jordan said she had been working on opening a marijuana store since December 2013 and has invested about $100,000 in the business.
Jordan said she received approval from the state Liquor Control Board and was awaiting the last of the paperwork to arrive before the city would grant her a business license.
“I had a backup location once, but that was the location where Purple Haze is, so I decided to hold out to this location,” Jordan said.
Purple Haze is the name of a pot shop on Rucker Avenue that has drawn several complaints from neighbors since it opened in December 2014.
The City Council maintained several restrictions in the new ordinance that were already in effect: no production or processing facilities with more than 2,000 square feet of growing area, no retail shops in the Everett Station zone, no producing or processing facilities in the Maritime Services zone of northwest Everett, and a 1,000-foot buffer between production and processing facilities and residential zones.
The council also imposed a new restriction, a 1,000-foot separation between different producers and processors, although the council also wanted the planning commission to weigh in on both the separation and whether the city’s interest would be served by allowing producers to share the same building.
“If these businesses are going to cluster we may want to require these business to use a special use permit,” Stonecipher said.
A special use permit could be used to ensure that any business had an adequate ventilation system installed to control odors, she said.