Pot zoning – where will Bellevue put it?

Bellevue city councilors are mulling over where four marijuana retail stores should be located ahead of the state liquor control board's issuance of licenses.

Bellevue City Council members don’t want to block recreational marijuana sales here, but they are looking at ways to head off where the four approved retail stores in the city can be located.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board anticipates approving rules for growing, processing and selling recreational marijuana on Oct. 16 to take effect 30 days after, said WSLCB spokesman Mikhail Carpenter. A tentative date for prospective marijuana retailers, producers and processors to apply for licensure is Nov. 18.

King County has been approved for 61 retail outlets out of the 334 to be allowed statewide based on population and consumption data compiled by the Rand Corporation, a subcontractor through the liquor board’s consultant, BOTEC. There also will be 11 at-large stores that would be allotted to unallocated areas across Washington.

“We anticipate we will get more applications than there are licenses,” Carpenter said, “which means there will probably be a lottery to decide who would get a license.”

Voter-approved Initiative 502, which legalized small amounts of marijuana for adults, does not allow cities to prohibit the opening of retail stores, but does prevent the shops from being 1,000 linear feet from areas where children congregate, such as schools, playgrounds, parks and recreation and public transit centers.

he city of Bellevue has been under an interim zoning ordinance regarding medical marijuana “collective gardens” for the past 18 months to avoid harming residential neighborhoods by only allowing them in zoned light industrial, general commercial and medical areas. Councilmembers will receive further recommendations from the planning commission Oct. 7 where a discussion about recreational zoning locations also will occur, said Emily Christensen, city communications director.

“We’ve kind of been waiting for the state liquor board to determine how the licenses would be issued, and the council has also been looking at permanent regulations for recreational marijuana,” Christensen said.

Deputy Mayor Jennifer Robertson said during a July council study session she favors interim zoning regulations for recreational marijuana gardens, processing facilities and stores rather than trying to fight them through a moratorium. Bellevue voters approved I-502 by nearly 60 percent.

“We are kind of on shifting sands, but we don’t want to be on quicksand,” Robertson said, “and we need to do something to make sure that we get ahead of licenses issued. And, from my perspective, the sooner, the better, because I know there are people and companies out there right now looking for space for growing and processing; maybe not retail yet, but it’s coming and people are setting up their businesses and getting ready to do it. And the sooner we adopt a zoning regulation on it, the more likely we are to have a lack of conflict with people who are wanting to bring this business to Bellevue.”