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Planning commission says yes to more Everett marijuana shops

EVERETT — The city’s planning commission recommends letting five more marijuana retailers open and cutting down the city-created distance buffer between shops from 2,500 feet to 500 feet.
Most commissioners, however, disagreed with a request from Mayor Cassie Franklin to write new buffer boundaries keeping marijuana shops away from sites used by defined “vulnerable populations” such as youth centers, homeless shelters or places that help people recover from addiction.
The suggestion was removed from the commission’s recommendation to the City Council. The council is expected to formalize a permanent marijuana rulebook in the coming weeks.
How the city handles marijuana shops is currently under an interim rulebook set in June 2016 that was predestined to be reconsidered by this summer.
The commission voted 5-2 for loosening the rules at its April 3 meeting. Commissioner Michael Zelinski voted no and expressed that he favors buffers around sensitive groups. Commissioner Greg Tisdel gave the other “no” vote; he said he wasn’t sure more stores would help Everett’s image.
Commissioner Kathryn Beck, who opposed the mayor’s request for additional types of buffers, also countered that marijuana retailers do not factor greatly on whether businesses move to a city.
One dozen people gave comments to the commission at the meeting, from out-of-city marijuana lobbyists to residents concerned about adding more shops. A few residents advocated creating new buffers to keep shops away from churches.
Five marijuana stores currently are open inside the city, with a slew of stores just outside the city along Highway 99.
The council instituted a five-store cap in summer 2016 in response to the state recommending Everett take up to 10 stores. A 2,500-foot buffer between shop locations was written in part to avoid the stores from clustering together. A related concern was about the stores being theft targets.
The state Liquor and Cannabis Board sets the number of stores allocated for most major cities. In 2015, it practically doubled the number of stores allowed statewide, which is how Everett’s number inflated to 10 stores.
There are five retailers with state licenses that the city cap restrains from opening. Four of these licensees appear to meet all other city zoning standards to open if the city’s five-store cap was lifted.
Most planning commissioners who opposed Franklin’s suggested restriction about “vulnerable populations” said there isn’t science to back up implementing it.
Coincidentally, if a buffer like this was authorized, some stores that have already opened would become non-conforming. One example is Kush Mart, which sits at the end of the road to the proposed low-barrier housing center near Evergreen Way and Pecks Drive. The shop opened in November 2014 and is also consistently the county’s highest-grossing retailer, according to marijuana revenue tracking website 502data.com.
Being deemed a non-conforming use doesn’t force a business to close, but does put a window of time on it. For example, if a marijuana shop closes down, the building owner has two years to have another marijuana shop take its place before being blocked from doing so.
The planning commissioners are volunteer residents appointed by the mayor.

 

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