Ferndale City Council to take up moratorium, siting for marijuana businesses

A month after extending a six-month moratorium on new recreational pot businesses in Ferndale, the City Council will once again take up the issue of where future pot growers, processors and retailers can open shop here.

The City Council’s planning and land use committee voted 2-1 on Wednesday, Oct. 1, with Councilman Keith Olson voting no, to send the moratorium back to the full council on Monday, Oct. 6.

On Monday, the City Council will consider proposals from Councilman Jon Mutchler to:

• Lift the existing moratorium on recreational pot businesses.

• Adopt another, partial moratorium that would allow new applicants to go into light industrial and manufacturing zones only.

• Have the Planning Commission review current zoning for retail stores as well as growers and processors. For retail, the commission would be asked to consider allowing pot stores only in areas zoned general business. For growers and processors, the commission would look at restricting those businesses to light industrial and manufacturing. The commission’s recommendations then would go back before the City Council.

The council had just voted Sept. 2 to extend its moratorium on new pot business for another six months. A displeased Olson wondered why the issue was coming back so soon.

“What has changed since the last council meeting that we’re doing a 180?” Olson asked.

City officials originally were concerned that the Washington state Liquor Control Board was allowing businesses that have applied for a state license to move from jurisdictions with permanent bans or temporary moratoriums to ones that don’t have them — possibly opening the way for a flood of pot businesses to come to Ferndale.

That hasn’t happened, city staff told the planning and land use committee, which is comprised of Olson, Mutchler and councilman Brent Goodrich. Mutchler chairs the committee.

“There’s no evidence they’re coming here,” City Clerk Sam Taylor told committee members Wednesday.

Mutchler said he made the motion because he was trying find a middle ground on Initiative 502, which was approved by voters statewide but voted down in Ferndale precincts. The measure legalized recreational marijuana, but only 49 percent of Ferndale voters supported it.

That split suggested that a “middle course was what Ferndale needed,” Mutchler said in an interview.

“I made my motion, not to stop the marijuana industry in Ferndale, but because I think it would be in our community’s best interests to reduce the amount of available real estate in Ferndale that I-502 businesses can access so as to avoid becoming what our Community Development Director (Jori) Burnett called too ‘marijuana friendly,’ ” Mutchler said, “and to do our best to insure that all I-502 businesses are kept a reasonable distance from families and neighborhoods.”

“The current ordinance had the unfortunate consequence that one such I-502 grower/processor on Portal (Way) is now located in the middle of a high-density, residential part of Ferndale,” he added. “I hope we can avoid that in the future.”

Goodrich, in voting to send the issue back before the City Council, said: “We’re taking something and trying to fine tune it. This is a possible tweak.”

The City Council meeting begins 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall Annex, 5694 Second Ave. in Ferndale.