Hello Vashon & Maury Island neighbors,
I have created a summary of the most up to date information and links that I have gathered concerning the recent two hot issues regarding legal marijuana business regulation on Vashon Island. I figured that if I was going to do all of this research for myself anyway, that I might as well share it and save you some work.
Special thanks to staff at Councilman McDermott’s office, County Executive Dow Constantine’s office and Councilman Rod Dembowski himself who all connected with me today to make sure we on Vashon had the most fresh and relevant information possible. Their combined efforts has brought all of this into sharp focus for me and I hope I can pass on some of that understanding. Any errors are mine and not from the helpful legislative folk.
There are two issues that are especially key today because they will be addressed in some way on this coming Tuesday, April 1st at a meeting of the King County Transportation, Economic and Environment Committee (TrEE). That meeting will be at 9:30am at King County Council Chambers at the King County Courthouse, 516 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
Here is a link to the TrEE Committee page:
Topic Area #1 - Amending the Vashon Comprehensive Plan
One thing to note right now on the TrEE Committee page above is that there is no agenda listed for April 1st. That is what has folks annoyed and suspicious here on Vashon and what caused the call rally at K2 yesterday. Folks who want jobs at EdiPure, and Bakkhos themselves all want to see that our Comprehensive Plan gets considered and moving forward at that April 1st committee meeting. All of the legislators I spoke to confirmed that it was on the agenda for Tuesday. They were all actually kind of indignant about it. Not to call them out as rude but more to point out that they all considered it a foregone conclusion that it would be taken up Tuesday. The rub was that because the agenda is not yet posted online, none of us on Vashon can know for sure and it is just the legislators who know the agenda. Usually agendas are up a week in advance but not so this week.
So, ok, the Comprehensive Plan is on the agenda for Tuesday and that is a win, also though, the TrEE Committee could be communicating a bit better via their website and this miscommunication wouldn’t be happening at all.
Here is a link to the actual ordinance to be considered by King County Council on Tuesday. Special note that if you look in the “attached documents,” that is where the Transmittal is that folks have been asking for. That is the doc that the County Executive sent to the King County Council that starts the process of the Comprehensive Plan change.
You will see there under “Indexes” it says “Comprehensive Plan.” That is Vashon’s Comprehensive Plan and a part of that is Vashon’s Town Plan. That is what we want to have amended to come in line with the rest of the county and allow marijuana business to be conducted at the former K2 facility. The parcel was switched over to the very restrictive “Community Business Zone” several years ago. A few folks have tried to develop the former K2 property with the limited businesses allowed in a CB zone but no one has been able to really make it work. A company called Bakkhos Holding is prepared to buy the former K2 building and put it to work growing marijuana and infusing 75+ different food types as EdiPure for folks who’d rather not or cannot smoke marijuana.
The actual direction given to the TrEE Committee by the County Executive is actually pretty awesome to read. It is so dry and clear without hype. You can read it all yourself in Attachment 6 of the ordinance above but I have copied it here for your convenience and because it is well worth reading:
“Vashon Island Amendments
This proposed ordinance will fully implement the provisions of Ordinance 17710, which amended KCC Title 21A to allow recreational marijuana uses in various zoning districts throughout the County. It will complete the County's zoning framework for recreational marijuana uses allowed under Initiative 502.
Ordinance 17710 provides for recreational marijuana uses in Community Business (CB) and Industrial (I) zoning districts. The current zoning on Vashon Island restricts the allowed uses on CB and I zoned properties within the town center. This ordinance will add recreational marijuana uses to the list of allowed uses in the CB and I zones.
This ordinance amends property-specific zoning conditions VS-P29 (restricting uses in CB zones) and VS-P30 (restricting uses in I zones). It adds recreational marijuana producer, processor and retailer uses to the list of allowed uses in the CB zone, and adds recreational marijuana producer and processor uses to the list of allowed uses in the I zone.
A public meeting on Vashon Island was held on February 19, 2014, to gather comments on these proposed amendments. The Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER) received over 150 comments; a variety of perspectives were represented and an additional approximately 75 names were added to the "parties of record" list. A summary of DPER's public involvement process is included as part of this transmittal.”
So, on Tuesday April 1st, the TrEE Committee will consider this legislation and discuss what to do about it. The general feeling I get from them is that the council members want to bring Vashon in line with the rest of the county and that this is going to happen.
Dan Anglin from EdiPure has told me that they can only hang out and wait for a location in King County for so long and I get that from a business standpoint. If the TrEE Committee doesn’t take up the change to the Comprehensive Plan on April 1st and get the ball rolling, EdiPure will certainly go elsewhere. That is why many Vashon residents including myself have been pushing to get confirmation from the county that our Comprehensive Plan was going to come up for consideration on Tuesday. We want those jobs and investment and the TrEE website isn’t telling us we are going to be heard on Tuesday. That is why Vashon residents have been in heavy contact with the council members over the last 48 hours, because we don’t like being left in the dark so much. That said, I appreciate how challenging website updates can often be to get out on time. To reiterate, no one I talked to at King County doubted for a second that the TrEE Committee would pick it up on Tuesday, they just hadn’t let Vashon residents or EdiPure know. Again, a simple miscommunication that caused a lot of good people to get all out of whack.
Ok, so on Tuesday the TrEE Committee will discuss the Vashon Comprehensive Plan amendment. Good. But what will happen? After talking to the King County folk, I understand that this kind of a thing may well take a couple of meetings and that is pretty common. It has also been suggested to me that it could be voted on immediately on Tuesday but that is ridiculously unlikely considering “the complexity and importance of the issues.” Suffice it to say that there is still politics and considerations going on.
Let’s just assume for moment that the TrEE Committee does pick it up as planned on Tuesday, April 1st because that seems likely. Based on the past, the committee will take at least one more meeting to pass something. That seems reasonable and expected and EdiPure says that works, barely, with their time frame too. Everybody wins.
All of this effort would just allow marijuana business generally to be done at the former K2 building. EdiPure still needs to get their permit from the WSLCB. That seems pretty likely though even though there has been some common bureaucratic miscommunication between EdiPure and WSLCB but that was sorted out awhile back. All that looks good to go.
That is issue #1 and is entirely about the Vashon Town Plan as part of the Vashon Comprehensive Plan and allowing marijuana business at K2. Still with me? Below is the second aspect that is important because it will also be addressed in some way on this coming Tuesday, April 1st at the meeting of the King County Transportation, Economic and Environment Committee (TrEE).
Topic Area #2 - The CUP Requirement Ceiling
A CUP is a Conditional Use Permit. Usually used when a new church or big box store goes in to assess increased traffic, the CUP really is kind of broad and in King County is described as “A conditional use permit (CUP) allows the county to consider uses that may be desirable to a particular community, but which are not routinely allowed, through a public hearing process, and to control certain uses which could have detrimental effects on a community or neighboring properties. A 'conditionally permitted use' on a specific property is subject to conditions that ensure compatibility with nearby land uses.” That doesn’t really tell us anything, unfortunately.
Here is the deal though. None of the marijuana businesses on Vashon Island want there to be a CUP at all for obvious reasons. They cost thousands of dollars to just apply for. They take thousands of dollars more in engineers and architects to prove what you are doing is feasible. There is a wait period that can extend up to 6 months and possibly longer if anyone appeals. Finally, and to many the worst part, there would be one of those big ugly white “Proposed Land Use” signs in the neighborhood. No one likes those. So there are lots of reasons to think the CUP is a poor way to go but that is where we are at for the moment. Now, what to do with it since it already exists.
Right now, the county has dropped the ceiling of when the CUP is necessary to just a 2,000 square foot canopy of marijuana plants. If you don’t know much about marijuana, it is very hard to relate this for you but consider that the top license available is for 30,000 sqft and this is only 2,000sqft. That is tiny, tiny. With the ceiling at 2,000 sqft, anyone wishing to grow more than that will be required to have a CUP and incur the costs above and also a delay in starting business which means they will miss this summer’s outdoor growing season, either moving them indoors to use lights or having to wait all the way until next summer to grow. That does not make for good business. The WSLCB did not call for this added measure after we all passed I-502. This is an extra zoning layer that King County has added that does not occur elsewhere in the state.
I spoke with Councilman McDermott about a cut-out avoiding the CUP for just Vashon Island since we have a very different agricultural culture than the rest of King County. For all the good it would do, Councilman McDermott is quite sure it is not a political possibility in the King County Council and it is also his own goal to keep the regulations as consistent as possible between unincorporated King County and everyone else. While I wish he would think otherwise, I certainly have to respect his vast experience compared to mine and move on.
The first fall back position is to remove the CUP from all of King County and not just Vashon Island. Again, Vashon business folks would love this because the CUP is a huge hassle and expensive and removes them from this summer’s sunshine grow season. This is also a non-starter it seems. Removing the entire CUP requirement may be a good idea but it is a huge leap for the council members to take from where they are now. I don’t know what it would take for it to actually happen, if it could happen at all. As founder of VIMEA though, I represent folks who want to get to growing legal marijuana and that is what my people are looking for. King County is a morass of marijuana regulation and we’d really like the council to stop adding unnecessary impediments to business and calling them cautionary measures. Their cautionary measures will cause us to be far less competitive with Eastern Washington by delaying our start.
So what is left to do with the CUP? The suggestion I am hearing from staffers is that there might be some play to move the CUP ceiling from 2,000sqft to 10,000 sqft. While that is not moving it all the way to 30,000 sqft, it certainly is a lot more than 2,000 sqft. And here is why this is so important. You really need the first 3,000 or so square feet just to hope to break even as a business. At 2,000sqft, no one can make any money the first year and they will also have to pay for the CUP and that makes opening a business nearly impossible. At 10,000 sqft, some economies of scale start to kick in and there is some profit margin, maybe, depending on where marijuana prices go and that your crop doesn’t just fail. If everything goes perfectly, you can make some money at 10,000sqft, but not much under the present regulations. Most folks want to operate in the 20,000 to 30,000 sqft range to make the whole enterprise even worth it.
Because it would be such a long stretch for the council members from where they are now, it is unlikely that we can get the entirety of the CUP removed from the entire county though we wish we could. Maybe we can. What does seem possible is to get the ceiling raised from 2,000sqft to 10,000sqft and allow these mom & pop marijuana businesses on Vashon to make a little money first season hopefully.
I’ll say this below again but here it is for a first time now. If you want the entire CUP removed for the whole County on Tuesday, tell your representative that. If you are OK with the 10,000sqft compromise, then tell your representative to make sure that happens on Tuesday. I am here to provide you with the info to decide for yourself as neighbors. As founder of VIMEA, I would like all of the CUP removed for everyone in King County or at least Vashon Island but as my neighbors I want to tell you that there is also this fall back position being tossed around and if that works for you then you deserve to know about it.
Where does that leave us for Tuesday, April 1st? On Tuesday, there is a second zoning ordinance that will be considered after the Vashon Comprehensive Plan is considered. I don’t know its ordinance number or what it is called, again, because they have not released the agenda for the TrEE meeting on the website. This is just what I have been told by staff. However, what it does is fix a whole slew of minor administrative errors across the county. I have been told that this CUP change could be rolled into that. That would be elegant and good government.
What can you do?
Make your voice heard. I trust in representative government. I have respect for my chosen council representative Joe McDermott too. The only way our council members can represent us well is if they know what we think. Call them up. Emailing is ok too if you are nervous about it but the folks on the other side of the phone are always nice. Don’t be mean with them. They are just at work like you or me.
1. On the Vashon Comprehensive Plan topic.
This is the easy one. Just call and tell them thanks for making sure that our Vashon Comprehensive Plan is considered on Tuesday April 1st by the TrEE Committee (“tree.”) and please get it completed as fast as legally possible. We have jobs and major investment on the line here on Vashon.
2. On the CUP ceiling topic.
If you think that the CUP should be totally removed and that King County is just hindering business and being overly cautious, go ahead and call and tell them that you want the CUP removed for all of King County so we can get to work and compete with Eastern Washington where there is no CUP requirement.
If you think that 10,000sqft is an acceptable compromise, then tell them that is how you feel and ask them to make that happen right away on Tuesday too.
1. First off, you can call Councilman Rod Dembowski's office to thank him for making the Vashon Town Plan amendments a priority because we want the jobs and investment and to get K2 back to work.
Councilman Rod Dembowski, 206-477-1001, firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Second, call our own Councilman Joe McDermott and tell him to do everything he can to give Vashon legal marijuana entrepreneurs relief from the burdens of the CUP requirement.
Councilman Joe McDermott, 206-477-1008, email@example.com
Remember, these people are our friends.
I spent several hours writing this today because watching my normally kind neighbors beat each other up online over inaccurate info on both sides is really difficult to watch. When the staffs from Councilman McDermott’s office, Chief Executive Dow Constantine’s office and Councilman Rod Dembowski himself all shared real info with me today, I knew I needed to do what I could to disseminate it.
One last interesting piece of news today is that a letter to the editor ran in today’s Vashon Beachcomber from Bill Moyer of Backbone Campaign that very much seems to endorse the Bakkhos/K2 deal to move forward. He writes, ““Any political pressure for delays in the permitting process needs to cease or be transcended by King County government. The process, however flawed as it may be, needs to move forward. Failure to do so will continue to tear at the fabric of this community.” So that is good news to share.
Thanks for your awareness of the community and caring enough to participate.
Founder, Vashon Island Marijuana Entrepreneurs Alliance
If you want to keep up with other news from the Vashon Island Marijuana Entrepreneurs Alliance, sign up for our email list: http://bit.ly/14DRl9G