Ferndale to hold public hearing on six-month pot moratorium

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 16, 2014 

FERNDALE - The City Council will hold a public hearing Monday, April 21, about its six-month moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses in Ferndale.

On March 3, the council approved an emergency moratorium to block new applications for pot growers, processors and retailers because of concerns about the state's handling of marijuana licenses. The city was required to hold a public hearing within 60 days of adopting the moratorium.

"You're under no obligation to lift the moratorium or to change the moratorium," said Jori Burnett, the city's community development director.

Burnett was speaking to members of the council's Planning and Land Use Committee.

City staff recommended in a report that the council keep the existing moratorium in place because "uncertainties related to recreational marijuana licensing still remain."

City leaders were concerned that the state Liquor Control Board, which is overseeing licensing, is giving applicants a 30-day period to finalize their location. According to the state, the 30-day period is for applicants who incorrectly put in a home address instead of the actual business location.

But businesses that already have filed an application with the state also could use the 30-day period to indicate they will move from jurisdictions that have instituted permanent bans or temporary moratoriums to ones that didn't.

For example, Ferndale officials were notified about a business that wanted to move from a location in unincorporated Whatcom County to Ferndale when the county instituted a 60-day moratorium on new pot businesses in February.

Ferndale officials said they received "vague and conflicting answers" from the liquor board when they first asked about that ability to amend addresses.

Meanwhile, the County Council has ended its moratorium on pot businesses, but is still working on rules for where such businesses can set up shop in the unincorporated parts of the county.

The County Council will hold another public hearing on the siting of pot businesses on Tuesday, April 22.

Worried that too many marijuana businesses might try to shift to Ferndale, city staff recommended keeping the moratorium in place until issues with the state are resolved and they know what the county will do.

They also expressed concern about the impact of Lynden's moratorium.

IF YOU GO

What: Public hearing on Ferndale's six-month marijuana moratorium, at City Council meeting.

When: 6 p.m. Monday, April 21.

Where: Council chambers, 5694 Second Ave.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com .

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