Island County officials sympathetic but powerless to stop marijuana manufacturer

Planning Director David Wechner addresses the concerns of Mark Calim, left, and Kristiina Miller, who are angry about a proposed marijuana production center on Goldie Road.   - Photo by Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times
Planning Director David Wechner addresses the concerns of Mark Calim, left, and Kristiina Miller, who are angry about a proposed marijuana production center on Goldie Road.
— image credit: Photo by Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times

A fence being raised around marijuana-related businesses may soon prevent people from accessing a popular North Whidbey charity that helps low-income people.

A group of Goldie Road business owners met with Island County officials Tuesday to voice their concerns about a proposed recreational marijuana production business that they say is forcing them to relocate.

They also said they are worried the marijuana trade will bring a bad element to the area and prevent the public from getting to their own businesses.

County Commissioner Jill John-son, Sheriff Mark Brown and Plan-ning Director Dave Wechner said they sympathize with their plight, but can do little because it’s private enterprise on private property.

“It’s a free market situation,” Johnson said. “What you don’t want is for your elected official to have control over private property or rent control.”

Johnson noted that a clear majority of Island County residents, including those on North Whidbey, voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. She said she was very hesitant to allow pot businesses in the county, but she only heard one person speak against it during the lengthy process of adopting the county’s marijuana-related land-use regulations.

“As you can see now, nobody cares until it goes in next to them,” she said.

The county’s marijuana ordinance allows marijuana-related businesses as a permitted use in some areas.

Mark Calim, owner of Mark’s Auto Repair, and owners of surrounding businesses, said they received a letter a couple of weeks ago from their new landlords stating that they had to pay a 300 percent increase in their lease or get out within 30 days.

They said they later learned the owners plan to put recreational marijuana businesses in the buildings.

Kristiina Miller, director of the nonprofit Garage of Blessings, said she received a letter from the property manager saying the properties will be fenced and, as of July 1, people won’t have access to a garage of free second-hand items.

The Garage of Blessings’ lease runs until next February.

Under the state and local rules for marijuana-related business, marijuana production facilities must be fenced.

Miller said she worries that the fence will sound the death knell for her charity.

“Even if we’re able to get out of the lease,” she said, “it doesn’t mean we have anywhere to go. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Wechner told the meeting attendees that the area is zoned industrial, which doesn’t allow for retail pot shops under the new county ordinance.

A Woodinville couple applied to the state to open a recreational pot business in the area, but it won’t be allowed.

However, Wechner said another application was made last week for a “tier 2” marijuana production facility in one of the buildings on the site.

The period for applying for licenses is over, but Wechner said a company, called “Bud Brothers,” had previously applied to open a production facility on Bush Point Road; he said they may be allowed to “address jump” under the state rules.

Wechner said he hasn’t received any information about Bud Brothers yet, but saw the application on the state’s website. If the application does come across his desk, he said, he’ll make any decisions based on the county’s zoning code.


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