Marijuana dispensary plan in historic downtown draws fire
August 13, 2013
By Peter Clark
A medical marijuana dispensary looks to open in Olde Town and residents are raising their voices in protest.
The Peaceful Choice, a medical marijuana collective garden, submitted an application that was completed 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 First Place Northwest, said she is very concerned by an application making its way through the city that would allow for the dispensary to open its doors 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.
The city approved an ordinance in 2011 forbidding collective gardens within 1,000 feet of a community center.
The city’s municipal code defines a community center as “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 said she 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.”
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,” Planner Jason Rogers said. “We have to have this conversation.”
Responding to Brewer’s concerns about adjacent community locations, Rogers said that the department still needs 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.
Additionally, Brewer has 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 school students. A block away sits Village Theatre’s 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?”
Brewer said she also feels that housing a medical marijuana facility would hurt property values 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.
Rogers explained that within the applied zone, The Peaceful Choice could operate, although the city has a responsibility to continually assess what risks 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 forward.
“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.”
Development Services Director John Minato will make a decision on The Peaceful Choice’s application by Sept. 10. Though the official public comment ended Aug. 8, Rogers encourages residents to reach out with their opinions.
“Just because the public comment closes doesn’t mean we won’t take additional comments,” he said. Email him at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, Brewer has launched an online petition to garner public support to deny The Peaceful Choice’s application. Twenty-seven people have signed since its establishment Aug. 5. Find it at http://bit.ly/19O6c4X.
“I don’t want to be living with it,” Brewer said. “It shouldn’t be included in a mixed-use building.”
The Peaceful Choice applicant, Victoria M. Robinson, declined to comment until the city makes a decision.