Pasco City Council to mull pot moratorium for second time in 6 weeks

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldOctober 14, 2013 

The Pasco City Council discussed extending the city's moratorium on marijuana-related businesses for another six months, just six weeks after passing its first moratorium.

Council members agreed at the Monday workshop to put the moratorium on next week's council consent agenda, in which a number of items are approved at the same time.

If approved next week, marijuana sales may not be allowed in Pasco city limits under Initiative 502, which was approved by state voters, until September 2014. The city introduced a 13-step work plan, which goes over the items it will need to address before allowing marijuana-related businesses.

The plan includes researching what similar cities have done, considering the discrepancies between state and federal law and holding public workshops with the city planning commission. Finally, it will go to the full city council for a workshop, then a vote.

But waiting too long could cause the city to face its own set of risks, said Brian Smith, spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which regulates marijuana sales in the state. The board is expected to issue rules for marijuana sales at its Wednesday meeting and begin taking applications for licenses Nov. 18. Licenses may be allotted around 90 days after the applications come in.

The licenses will include language that the marijuana businesses not conflict with local regulations. But Smith said some businesses might sue to get cites and counties to drop their moratoriums.

"We've seen many communities with moratoriums starting to lift them," he said.

Pasco has been allotted up to four marijuana stores inside the city limits.

Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins said the city needs to be careful.

"Nobody wants to get sued, but we need to have clarity from the state rule makers on what the rules are," he said after Monday's meeting. "Then we'll move forward on a local level."

Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield said the city can already tell it needs to extend the moratorium because the state Legislature won't convene until January, and it will be March or April before new laws are passed that could affect marijuana laws.

The city won't necessarily need the entire moratorium, which is scheduled to run until Sept. 1, 2014. The moratorium will automatically end upon the passage of a city marijuana ordinance, Crutchfield said.

Also Monday:

-- The council discussed extending city water service into two new developments northwest of the city, within Pasco's urban growth area. The city would pay no more than $290,000, or 43 percent of the total cost. Developers Big Sky LLC and Ted Tschirky would pick up the rest. Crutchfield said residents of the new subdivisions will be required to sign agreements not to challenge future annexation of the area by Pasco if they want city water.

"It's the same agreement we've used for 30 years," Crutchfield said.

The developments are planned near the intersection of Burns and Kohler roads.

The Big Sky development will have around 45 lots, Crutchfield said. Tschirky owns about 70 acres.

"It's going to have over 100 (lots) I'm sure," he said.

Mayor Pro-Tem Rebecca Francik said she wanted to make sure people understand the agreements they are signing for water. She wants to avoid the divisiveness the city has seen in the "doughnut hole" area, where two recent annexations are being challenged in a Nov. 5 ballot proposition. Some residents cited unclear water agreements when they bought property as a reason for signing them.

Crutchfield said the city will work with title companies to make the information easier to see.

"I think we will make sure the title companies put it on the front page of the titles rather than the last page," he said.

-- The council discussed a study for a new five-acre neighborhood park being built in conjunction with a new Pasco School District elementary school at Road 60 and Three Rivers Drive. The $35,980 fee for consulting with CKJT Architects of Kennewick will be paid for with the park impact fees charged to developers. Crutchfield said the entire park is estimated to cost between $250,000 and $300,000.

Councilman Al Yenney said that while he likes that the city is working with the school district, the study is actually costing up to $15,000 more than if the city had done it on its own.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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