Bellevue City Council is ready to finalize an ordinance regulating where collective gardens for medical marijuana can be located within the city and weighed in Monday on concerns they want addressed ahead of adoption of an emergency ordinance for recreational pot later this month.
Collective gardens – cooperatives where up to 10 qualifying patients may grow medical marijuana – have been limited to light industrial, general commercial, Bel-Red general commercial and medical institution zones within the city since the passing of an emergency ordinance in May 2012.
A revised ordinance proposed by the Planning Commission would remain mostly the same, but exclude medical institution districts. Commission Chairwoman Diane Tebelius told councilors Monday they did not want there to be competition within the medical zones, which are already fairly small. Gardens would be located at least 1,000 feet from school zones and administrative conditional use permits would be issued for the structures. Gardens would also be separated by at least 1,000 feet.
Deputy Mayor Jennifer Robertson said she wanted the final ordinance, which will be brought before the council for a vote on Oct. 21, to also address concerns about marijuana being visible and its odor offending abutting or adjacent properties.
“The whole point is, we don’t want the view or the smell of it to leave the property where they’re selling it,” she said.
Councilor John Chelminiak said he is concerned there needs to be an emphasis on security more than the required cameras and alarm system. Mayor Conrad Lee agreed security needed to be a strong component of an ordinance.
“It’s simply because the product still has value on the black market,” Chelminiak said.
As the Washington State Liquor Control Board aims to begin accepting applications for three licenses related to the growing, processing and sale of recreational marijuana in November, Legal Planner Catherine Drews said there is not enough time to address a land use code amendment, so an interim emergency ordinance should be passed. This would allow the Planning Commission more time to address revising the code.
Bellevue has been allocated four marijuana retail stores by the liquor control board, and Drews said the 11 at-large licenses would only be possible in cities without stores already allocated or unincorporated areas within King and other Washington counties. Staff has identified zones for retail under the assumption restrictions, such as the 1,000-foot rule, will assist in limiting where they are eventually located.
There can be dual licensure for growing and processing marijuana, and city staff is recommending those functions only occur inside a structure within light industrial zones. Land Use Director Carol Helland told council that attorneys for prospective growers have indicated western Washington’s climate is not conducive to producing marijuana outdoors, which means it would likely all be grown inside.
Robertson said the council should avoid impeding the process of bringing recreational marijuana production and sales to Bellevue, but she favors tighter regulations in an interim emergency ordinance that may be loosened in the final version. If the emergency ordinance were too loose and certain zones were later eliminated, it could leave behind growing, processing and retail operations that no longer conform to the zones they’re in.
“We want to make sure they know where in Bellevue they can go,” said Robertson, adding she wants to make sure the point where marijuana is being loaded for shipment is also contained. “We don’t want kids walking by seeing bales of marijuana being loaded into trucks.”
Should the council likewise adopt the emergency ordinance on Oct. 21, a public hearing would need to be held within 60 days.