A City Council study session turned unexpectedly busy as a call to halt any new licensed marijuana businesses in Spokane Valley appeared as an amended agenda item.
The council approved the emergency moratorium 6-1 – Council Member Ed Pace voted no – in response to the state of Washington passing emergency rules concerning the licensing of commercial marijuana stores that will go into effect Oct. 12 (see story on this page).
“There’s no time for us to get our new regulations in place,” said City Manager Mike Jackson. “We would retain the status quo of three retail establishments (in the city).”
Erik Lamb, deputy city attorney, said the new moratorium is in addition to the existing moratorium not allowing any unlicensed marijuana-based businesses in the city. Because that moratorium was put in place so the city could develop new regulations as to where and how the shops can operate, Lamb said a similar ordinance that would hit the pause button on any new licensed pot-based shops, producers or processors makes sense at this time.
“It does not affect the existing stores,” he said.
Under new rules passed by the Legislature, existing licensed retail shops can now seek a medicinal marijuana license. Under the moratorium, Spokane Valley’s three stores could continue to do just that.
Next Monday, however, the state will begin accepting new applicants for licensed pot stores in order to accommodate medicinal use. However, there is no set number at this time on how many applications the state will accept or how many stores will be allowed in any particular area.
Since over two dozen applicants sought Spokane Valley locations during the last state licensing go-around, Lamb said there could be potential nonconforming uses to any new rules the city eventually puts in place.
Only one spoke during the public-comment period, and James Johnson said the city should not act in haste.
“Fear is one of those things that make you do things you wouldn’t normally do,” he said. “Making policy changes during a study session should be concerning…be cautious, I guess.”
Pace said that the council passed the first moratorium because medicinal marijuana businesses were taking advantage of their unlicensed status. However, since voters supported legalized pot and the state has worked out a way to license new medicinal shops, he said the city should stay out of the way.
“I think we ought to leave it alone,” he said.
Council Member Ben Wick said the moratorium will give the city time to “make an informed decision” on how it wants to handle any new marijuana operations in Spokane Valley.
Council Member Chuck Hafner agreed.
“If (the state) isn’t going to limit it, we should be able to,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard said he considers the new moratorium to be “a complement “to the one already in place.
“We really do need to have the time to study this,” he said.
A public hearing on the new moratorium will be held Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague Ave.
If that weren’t enough, the council was also informed that the Centennial Trail will have to be reconstructed closer to the Spokane River in the area of the under-construction southbound Sullivan Road Bridge.
Steve Worley, senior planner for capital projects, said it was initially believed that the new bridge would not affect the existing trail in that area. However, it turns out that girders for the bridge would be only 6 feet overhead instead of the necessary 11 feet. Since girder construction is set for December, it had been thought that the trail could be lowered.
That, however, brought up another problem: AT&T has fiber-optic cable underneath the trail that would be too expensive to relocate.
“So, we’re looking at relocating the trail closer to the river,” Worley said.
While that could come at a cost of about $200,000, he added the city has $500,000 in a contingency fund for the bridge’s construction and that money would be eligible for a grant reimbursement.
The public will have a chance to comment on the issue at next Tuesday’s council meeting.