Residents rally to keep marijuana dispensary out of Old Town
August 7, 2013
By Peter Clark
NEW — 12:56 p.m. Aug. 7, 2013
A medical marijuana dispensary looks to open in Old Town and residents are raising their voices in protest.
The Peaceful Choice, a medical marijuana collective garden, submitted an application that was completed on July 10 to open within the Issaquah Court Condominiums, a mixed use building housing both residential and commercial units.
Robin Brewer, President of the Issaquah Court Condominiums in the 100 block of 1st Place Northwest, is very concerned by an application making its way through the city that would allow for the dispensary to open its door on the building’s ground floor.
“When the City of Issaquah set up the zoning for this, they did not take into account that the Library, train museum and senior center are all less than 1,000 feet from this proposed location and which fit the city’s own definition of a community center,” Brewer said.
Ordinance No. 2633 passed by the city in December 2011 states, “no collective garden shall be permitted within 1,000 fee of any community center or school.”
According to the municipal code, the city defines a community center as follows:
“A facility owned and operated by a public agency or nonprofit corporation; provided, that the principal use of the facility is for public assistance, recreation, community improvement, or public assembly.”
Brewer feels that the library and the senior center are the very definition of a community center.
“For the sale of recreational marijuana, the library is buffered out,” she said. “It should be a community center and it should be buffered out for medical marijuana as well.”
Additionally, she had concerns about the number of children’s activities that take place in the surrounding neighborhood. The Peaceful Choice would be located literally across the street from Young Life, an activity center for middle and high schoolers. A block away from Issaquah Court Condominiums sits the Village Theater KIDSTAGE, which hosts an arts enrichment preschool.
Within the proposed building is Studio B photography. Owner Brooke Clark voiced her worries about the security implications for her business. She perceived a heightened burglary threat from the possibility of a marijuana dispensary.
“We don’t want it,” she said. “Why would you want to change the element of what you do in your neighborhood?”
From professional standpoint, Brewer additionally felt that housing a medical marijuana facility would hurt the land value and make it more difficult to find tenants for the condos.
“We’ve already been told that families with children will not be re-upping their leases,” she said. “Our property values will go down because of it.”
Within the city, the Development Services Department is still clarifying the application and zoning procedures for medical, and looming recreational, marijuana facilities.
“The medical marijuana laws are really vague,” Development Services Associate Planner Jason Rogers said. “We have to have this conversation.”
Responding to Brewer’s concerns about adjacent community locations, he said that the department still needed to decide upon specific planning definitions.
“We’ve never made a formal determination of whether the library or the senior center fit the definition of a community center,” he said, adding that the same is true for the facilities. “We don’t actually have a specific definition of library or senior center. It does get very tricky.”
He explained that within the applied zone, The Peaceful Choice could operate; though the city had a responsibility to continually assess what possible risk such a business could pose to a surrounding area.
Rogers cautioned that the issue of mixed use buildings will crop up again as the Central Issaquah Plan moves to create greater density.
“All of our planning efforts are moved to turning central Issaquah into mixed use buildings,” he said. “It’s going to be a bigger issue.”
The Peaceful Choice’s application has 60 days from the acceptance date of July 20 to be approved by the administration, a decision made by the Development Services Director. Though the official public comment ends on Aug. 8, Rogers encouraged residents to reach out with their opinions.
“Just because the public comment closes doesn’t mean we won’t take additional comments,” he said. “If someone want to make a comment next Friday on this then they could and absolutely should.”
Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, Brewer has launched an online petition to garner public support to deny The Peaceful Choice’s application. Find it here.
“I don’t want to be living with it,” Brewer said. “It shouldn’t be included in a mixed use building.”