Washington’s new law permitting the use of recreational marijuana has prompted the Monroe City Council to pass an emergency ordinance, one that addresses two timely issues dealing with marijuana.
The city’s new ordinance sets interim zoning regulations in advance of future marijuana retailers and producers that will eventually be licensed to operate under the state’s new law; it also prohibits medical cannabis collective gardens in the city, an issue that has been put on hold this past year under city moratorium.
The ordinance was passed unanimously by the council at its Dec. 4 meeting, two days before the state’s new marijuana law began phasing in on Dec. 6, which is the same date that Monroe’s moratorium on cannabis collective gardens was due to expire.
Adding this new ordinance, said Monroe City Attorney Zach Lell, is a prudent measure. “It serves as a filler, putting regulations in place while the state works to develop a licensing scheme of its own,” he said. The ordinance is effective immediately and for a six-month time period, but that duration can be shortened or lengthened at the direction of the city council.
Collective cannabis gardens, which provide medical marijuana for qualified patients, have been allowable under state law for the past two years. The city council passed a six-month moratorium on these gardens last December, and extended it for another six months last June. The extension, said Monroe Public Works Director Brad Feilberg, allowed the city council to wait and see what would happen regarding Initiative 502.
Monroe’s new ordinance calls for a prohibition on medical cannabis collective gardens in the city, declaring that, “the secondary impacts from the establishment of facilities for the growth, production and processing of medical cannabis are not appropriate for any zoning designation within the city.”
Meanwhile, the passage of Initiative 502 is changing the landscape for recreational marijuana, and this is also addressed in the city’s new ordinance. It notes that, while the federal government still prohibits marijuana production and sales, “the city council wishes to acknowledge the will of the Washington voters and the authority exercised by the state.”
The council’s new ordinance has adopted interim zoning regulations for those eventually licensed to produce, process, or sell marijuana, while emphasizing that only facilities that have obtained a valid license by the state liquor control board will be permitted to operate.
The city’s ordinance regulates three categories dealing with marijuana; producers, processors and retailers. Producers, or persons who produce and sell marijuana wholesale to other producers or processors, will be able to operate in the city’s general industrial zone.
Processors, defined as those who make usable marijuana, or dried flowers, and marijuana-infused products for sale in retail outlets, will be permitted in both light and general industrial zones.
Retailers selling marijuana will only be able to locate in the general commercial and service commercial zones. There are only two serviced commercial zones in the city, located near the intersections of Fryelands Boulevard and U.S. 2, and at the opposite end of Fryelands Boulevard, near the roundabout.
The ordinance was introduced and passed after executive session at the end of the council’s meeting last week, with no open discussion.
A public hearing on the new ordinance will be held Jan. 15, 7 p.m., at the city council chambers.
A copy of the ordinance can be found at the city’s website.
Brandon Harano joins council as student representative
Mayor Robert Zimmerman welcomed Brandon Harano, the new student representative to the city council. Harano, 17, a senior at Monroe High School, will serve as a liaison between the city and the student bodies at the high school, the Sky Valley Education Center and Leaders in Learning.
City councilman Jim Kamp, who has led efforts to add a student representative to the council, said Harano’s application showed an interest in civic involvement and opportunities for new high school graduates, making him a good candidate for student representative. Kamp said he hopes the council will learn a lot from Harano’s presence at council meetings, and Harano, in turn, “may learn from us how city government works.”
At Monroe High School, Harano is vice president of the National Honor Society, and has been active in DECCA and the Science Club. He plays football, and is a midfielder for the Monroe LaCross Club, which he helped re-establish this past year. He plans to attend university next fall, and has applied to Western Washington University, as well as colleges in California and Hawaii. He said he hopes to study abroad in Japan, and is interested in the field of psychology, possibly with a minor in ethnic studies.
During that portion of the meeting reserved for council member reports, Harano said he would be exploring ways in which he can communicate information from the council to the student body, such as the school’s monthly video news program.
He also brought forward a proposal.
Monroe High School colors are orange and black, Harano said, “but a lot of the surrounding walls at the school are red and blue. This is a hot topic for students,” he said.
Harano said he is aware of feedback from the community that the school colors might seem too flashy, but it’s the students who spend the most time there, he said, and they would like to see the school colors on the walls. He said he would be willing to look for donations for paint and supplies, and painting the new walls could be part of a senior project.
Mayor Zimmerman and several council members said they supported the project.
School mitigation fee language may be out of city’s comprehensive plan
The city council has not yet taken final action on discounting school mitigation fees, but it has moved a step closer to making future discount rates easier to change.
The council has given first reading approval to a change in the city’s comprehensive plan. The change would take out regulatory language in that plan that sets the current school impact rate discount at 25 percent.
Council member Patsy Cudaback was the only council member to vote against the first reading of the amendment. She pointed out that school impact fees are the only fees that don’t come to the city, and keeping the language in the plan provides some reliability for the third entity, the school district. “There’s nothing to say this can’t be in the comprehensive plan,” she said, adding that it is worthy of further discussion.
The council continued discussions on whether to further increase the school impact fee discount to 50 percent, which is the discount rate for unincorporated Snohomish County. Fee rates are based on area growth and need for school growth, among other factors.
Council members Jason Gamble and Kevin Hanford indicated they would like to consider school impact fees in the aggregate with other builders’ fees, such as impact fees for parks and transportation and other permitting fees. If the council votes next week to go in that direction, they can decide to keep the current 25 percent discounted fee ordinance until a future time when those discussions take place, likely in early January.
The council is expected to take final action on school impact fees at its Dec. 11 meeting.