SHELTON – Residents spoke for and against a proposed city ordinance to loosen regulations for marijuana growers, processors and retailers in Shelton.
The Shelton City Commission conducted a public hearing Tuesday night on the proposed ordinance, but Mayor Gary Cronce and Commissioner Kathy McDowell chose to delay adoption of the ordinance in a first reading.
Cronce and McDowell said they needed more time to think about it.
Commissioner Tracy Moore said she was ready to consider adoption of the ordinance with a first reading.
The commission placed the ordinance on its work session agenda at 2 p.m. Monday at the Shelton Civic Center, 525 W. Cota St.
Representative of Black Diamond Biotech, which wants to locate a Shelton marijuana growing and processing operation inside the 70,000-square-foot former ITT Rayonier headquarters building at 409 E. Harvard Ave., addressed the commission in an attempt to allay residents’ concerns. They vowed to install a state-of-the-art ventilation system that would contain the odor of marijuana plants grown in the commercial-industrial zone, a requirement the city proposes.
Andrew Lange, with Black Diamond Biotech, recognized the No. 1 issue with Shelton residents and city leaders.
“We operate with a state-of-the-art … pharmaceutical grade filtration system that you would most likely see at Pfizer or any pharmaceutical company,” Lange said. He described the three-phase filtration system that Black Diamond would use.
“This system makes it so there is virtually zero odor escaping from the building,” he said.
The odor issue falls under state control, he said, with Olympic Region Clean Air Agency responsible.
Answering a resident’s concern about who will work at the operation, Lange said it would include a group of “very nice people.”
Lange studied at the University of Iowa in neurobiology, genetics and bio-engineering. “My colleagues have PhDs or bachelor’s degrees for biology, horticulture, agronomy and chemistry. So we are a very qualified group,” Lange said.
The group would invest at least $4.8 million into the facility. Local contractors would be hired to remodel the Rayonier building, he said.
“These facilities with this large of capital are not poorly run,” he said, “They are very high-end professional businesses. We’re not garage growers.”
The “large impact” of 30 jobs would be part of the first phase of the operation, Lange said.
Pat Weston, a Shelton resident for 25 years, said she was “very upset” at the prospect of bringing growing operations into the city. She said such activity would “affect your family.”
“Who’s going to work at this place? Is this what we want in our community?” Weston said.
Also opposed to the proposed growing operation was Bob Stone, who saw it as a threat to Shelton’s children.
“Don’t turn on our youth, our future,” Stone said, asking the commissioners to think about the long-term consequence of their decision.
Marilyn Vogler, who ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Gary Cronce in November, said she met the family that proposes the growing operation on East Harvard Street and was told the odor would be prevented from wafting off-premises. She said the plant would be good for economic development at little development cost to the city.
“They’ve told us it will bring a number of jobs to the area,” Vogler said.
“These plants can be operated by good neighbors.”
Issues the city commissioners are addressing:
- Reduction of the buffer zone from 1,000 feet to 500 feet between marijuana retailers or growers and public schools, parks, transit centers, libraries, recreational centers, child care centers and government buildings. The state now allows buffer zones of 100 feet.
- Amending the city code to allow marijuana producers and processors to operate within commercial and industrial zones.
- How to spend funding for local marijuana enforcement derived from marijuana tax revenues.
- Consideration to further regulate public marijuana-growing cooperatives.
The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board is re-evaluating the need to increase the number of licensed retail stores. That could lead to the state allowing a second marijuana retailer in Shelton, city Director of Community and Economic Development Steve Goins said.
By Jeff Chew/iFIBER One News
Former ITT Rayonier headquarters pictured above