Council explores impact of I-502
August 30, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
The Newcastle City Council conducted its first discussion about recreational marijuana since the passage of Initiative 502, legalizing the drug’s use for adults 21 and older, at its Aug. 20 meeting.
The City Council didn’t say much on the subject, though, preferring instead to take a wait-and-see approach as the Washington State Liquor Control Board continues to refine its rules for the marijuana industry.
However, based on the board’s draft rules, Newcastle Community Development Director Tim McHarg identified three Newcastle properties that are zoned for general retail land uses, and as such, could be potential locations for recreational marijuana facilities.
The board’s rules call for a 1,000-foot separation between a marijuana production, processing and/or retail facility and land uses such as parks, elementary schools and transit centers.
In the city’s downtown corridor, the Newcastle Library, and Bellevue’s Coal Creek Park severely limit the areas where a potential marijuana retailer could go, McHarg said.
The Coal Creek Utility District building on 132nd Avenue Southeast and the Hansen Moving and Storage building on Coal Creek Parkway are the only downtown parcels that would fit the 1,000-foot separation criteria.
“The likelihood of us having retail sales on those two parcels in the city of Newcastle is slim to none,” City Manager Rob Wyman said at the meeting.
Development of the Mutual Materials site could make the downtown corridor even more restrictive for marijuana retailers, if it includes any sort of park, and it likely will, potentially wiping away even the two listed parcels, McHarg said.
“It could become even more restrictive,” he said. “It won’t become any less restrictive.”
The third potential location is outside the city’s downtown corridor on Lake Washington Boulevard Southeast, where the Shell gas and service station currently stands.
Councilman Bill Erxleben was the most vocal of the council members, saying he preferred an outright ban on marijuana within the Newcastle city limits.
“Truth of the matter is the state of Washington is violating federal law, and any city municipality that participates in that is part of a conspiracy to violate federal law, period,” he said.
He also suggested bringing up the matter before the community, at the city’s annual town hall meeting in October.
“I’m absolutely convinced 90 percent of the folks in this town would like to have none of this stuff in this town,” he said.
A moratorium on recreational marijuana licenses is one avenue that could be considered, City Attorney Dawn Reitan said. Cities like Olympia and Sammamish have enacted a moratorium, and the city of Issaquah is currently considering one, as the Liquor Control Board continues to work on establishing permitting rules.
“For my recommendation, if you are looking at an end result be it do nothing or ban, a very conservative approach to the end result would be a moratorium,” she said.
The City Council decided against taking any action at the Aug. 20 meeting. Deputy Mayor Lisa Jensen noted that the city has time to consider its options since the board’s rules are not expected to become effective until November.