Everett likely to tighten retail pot rules

EVERETT — The City Council is expected to tighten its regulations on retail marijuana shops Jan. 7.

At its Dec. 31 meeting, the council considered an ordinance proposed by council member Judy Tuohy. The ordinance, which will come up for a vote Wednesday, further restricts where retail pot shops can operate, but won’t affect those already open.

The change was prompted by neighborhood opposition to Purple Haze, a retail pot shop that opened on Rucker Avenue on Dec. 17.

Rucker Avenue’s commercial zoning permits retail marijuana stores, and the store’s permit application was already on file when local neighbors, some of whom live in buildings in the commercial zone, began to protest to the council.

In response to neighbors who didn’t want the store to open, the Everett City Council considered an emergency moratorium at its Nov. 26 which would have prevented any stores from opening.

That emergency measure failed to pass out of concern that the city could face legal action from Purple Haze. Purple Haze subsequently applied for a permit from the city Dec. 2 under the original ordinance.

The new ordinance would not affect Purple Haze or the other two pot shops that have opened in Everett, but it might make it harder for two other businesses that won the city’s retail lottery to find a suitable location to operate.

City attorney Jim Iles cautioned the council that new ordinances or revisions that single out marijuana businesses could expose the city to legal problems, especially if they have the effect of limiting previously approved uses.

“It is not without significant legal and financial risk for the city to take these cases and trying to be retroactive in applying these regulations,” Iles said.

The new regulations would require that pot shops provide customer parking only on the public street side of their buildings, and access to that parking lot be from the public street, and not from an alley.

Pot shops would also not be allowed on any parcel that also allows residential use, or adjoining such a parcel, unless certain conditions are met.

The new conditions reflect complaints neighbors had about Purple Haze. But the new regulations would not affect that shop because it was grandfathered in under the old ordinance.

That’s unsatisfactory for Bonnie Arnestad, the owner of two residential properties in the same block as Purple Haze, who didn’t think the council was going far enough.

“I think giving preferential treatment to these other places that just skated in is unfair,” she said.

Several council members in response made a point of emphasizing that the law is clear as to when a business’ development rights are vested.

“It’s very important the public understand that the council does not administer land-use law,” council member Paul Roberts said. “This body does not have the authority to change the vesting statutes.”

Councilman Scott Murphy asked that the final version of the revised ordinance include language that the council would be notified at the same time as the public of a permit application for a retail marijuana store.

Iles said that was possible, but Mayor Ray Stephanson also cautioned the council that it wouldn’t change the law.

“Once this comes from the liquor board and the applicant has applied for that location, they’re going to be vested at that point,” Stephanson said.

“So notification is fine, but if they meet the conditions of the revised ordinance, they’re grandfathered like the three we’re already talking about,” he added.

Chris Winters: 425- 374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

Public hearing

The Everett City Council is considering new restrictions on retail marijuana stores. A public hearing and final vote will be held at its Jan. 7 meeting. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be held in Council Chambers in the Historic City Hall building, 3002 Wetmore Ave.

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