Carmen Miller (left) helps Ezekiel Engle with his selection at Tulalip Remedy in Tulalip on Aug. 22, 2018. The City of Everett is considering allowing more recreational cannabis stores in city limits. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Carmen Miller (left) helps Ezekiel Engle with his selection at Tulalip Remedy in Tulalip on Aug. 22, 2018. The City of Everett is considering allowing more recreational cannabis stores in city limits. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Everett leaders to ponder red-light cameras, adding pot shops

The controversial traffic enforcement idea is getting revived, and the five-store cap may double.

EVERETT — More cannabis shops and red-light cameras could come to the city.

An Everett ordinance caps the number of cannabis retail locations at five. And a decade ago the city was set for traffic enforcement cameras before it was scrapped. City councilmembers and staff are considering the benefits and risks of possibly doubling the retail total and setting up a red-light camera program during the Everett City Council public safety subcommittee at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Recreational marijuana was legalized in Washington after voters approved Initiative 502. Sales began in July 2014.

It’s become a big business, totaling more than $1.04 billion in sales between July 2018 and June 2019, according to data from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. Excise tax from cannabis in Snohomish County during that same period totaled more than $41 million.

Those sales fed $208,355 for Everett’s coffers that year.

Like other retail stores, pot shops also have experienced property crime, such as burglaries, thefts and trespass complaints. Kushmart and Mari J’s, which was closed because it was caught in a fraudulent loan scheme, were outliers with higher than normal police calls, averaging 4.8 and 3.7 per month. The remaining three stores were about average for the number of police calls received from bars and taverns — about one or less per month, the mayor’s chief of staff told The Daily Herald in August.

There are at least 40 retail locations throughout Snohomish County, including two in unincorporated Snohomish County that are across the street and a few blocks away along Highway 99 in south Everett.

The subcommittee will review a map of possible locations given existing restrictions — 1,000 feet from schools and parks, not abutting single-family residential areas, and others — about where cannabis stores can operate.

“As we have the ordinance written right now, there are a few locations possible,” said Councilmember Liz Vogeli, who is in favor of allowing more cannabis businesses.

The subcommittee had asked staff to research how revenue changed in cities that added cannabis stores.

Everett is reconsidering its scrapped traffic-enforcement camera program from 2009 and following the likes of Lynnwood, which has brought in millions in revenue from fines. (Dan Bates / Herald file)

Everett is reconsidering its scrapped traffic-enforcement camera program from 2009 and following the likes of Lynnwood, which has brought in millions in revenue from fines. (Dan Bates / Herald file)

Red-light cameras have been controversial since they were first introduced, particularly around whether cities use them for revenue or safety. Lawsuits have been filed against cities that implemented them, including one against Lynnwood that was dismissed in 2018. Other cities, including Monroe, stopped using them after voters said nay in advisory elections.

Safety improvement when such cameras are in place is supported in some studies and disputed by others.

The result for city budgets is more certain.

Between 2007 when traffic-enforcement cameras were installed and 2016, Lynnwood brought in $19.2 million from traffic ticket fines. About 24,000 camera tickets are issued each year in Lynnwood, based on public records The Daily Herald reported.

Everett was all set to follow suit in 2009, but halted implementing them when a legal challenge was filed in King County.

Vogeli said she had not formed an opinion about Everett using the cameras and she had received only one comment in favor of them, and “a lot more” opposed. She said the city should be upfront about its motives if it installed them.

“If it is about actual safety, then great. There are a lot of reasons for it to be a safety item,” Vogeli said. “But if it is a revenue stream, then we need to be clear about that.”

The city was prompted by complaints to reconsider the red-light enforcement. Everett staff noted a study that showed cities with the cameras saw a 21% decrease in fatal collisions caused by running a red light and that, if removed, that type of crash increased by 30%.

The cameras take two pictures of vehicles and a few seconds of video near the rear license plate. Footage is reviewed by a police officer before a fine, similar to a parking ticket, is mailed out to the registered vehicle owner. Those infractions are not reported to insurance companies.

Revenue from the fines must go toward the cost of the program or traffic safety improvements, such as crosswalk or signal enhancements, or traffic safety enforcement.

The city council public safety subcommittee meeting will be at Everett City Council Chambers, 3002 Wetmore Ave.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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