Richland weighs pot moratorium

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldAugust 27, 2013 

The Richland City Council will decide this fall whether to temporarily ban the production, processing and retail sale of recreational marijuana within city limits.

The six-month moratorium would give Benton County's second largest city time to develop a zoning plan.

It's not the only local municipality mulling that approach. The Pasco and Kennewick city councils both recently have discussed imposing moratoriums. Neither city has enacted one yet, although the Pasco council is expected to take a vote on temporary ban at a meeting next week.

The Richland council spent about a half-hour discussing a possible moratorium during its workshop meeting Tuesday night. A decision about putting one in place wasn't made, but members indicated a willingness to consider one during an upcoming regular session.

It should appear on a council meeting agenda in October.

Richland today has ordinances in place that prohibit land uses and businesses in conflict with local, state or federal law. While recreational pot became legal in the state for adults 21 and over last year through the passage of Initiative 502, it remains unlawful federally.

However, "that (conflict) could clear up in relatively short order, depending on how the federal government chooses to address the issue," said Heather Kintzley, city attorney, during the workshop. The state Liquor Control Board's rules for licensing and taxing retail marijuana are set to take effect in mid-November.

"At that time, they're going to start to accept business license applications at the state level," Kintzley said, noting that someone granted a license could then attempt to locate in the city and "if we don't have a zoning scheme in place or some regulations to indicate where that use will go, they'll be grandfathered or vested in terms of whatever regulations exist at the time."

The idea behind a moratorium "is to allow staff time to develop that zoning (plan) so that we've made sure we've thought it out, dotted our I's, crossed our T's," Kintzley said.

After the meeting, Mayor John Fox said it appears a moratorium is the best approach. But, "I think we should proceed as quickly as we can with the (zoning) ordinance process. The ordinance process needs to be well thought-out by staff and needs to go through a public hearing process, and so on, so the public has ample opportunity to weigh in on it.

The timeline for that -- council doesn't want to wait for the last minute for that."

Also Tuesday, H. Keith Moo-Young, the new chancellor of Washington State University Tri-Cities, told the council the campus is interested in potentially partnering with the city on facilities including sports fields and a recreation center. The council indicated the idea is worth exploring.

The council also talked about the use of eminent domain in right of way acquisitions and the agenda for an upcoming joint meeting with the planning commission.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529;; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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