Wanting to make sure areas near potential future schools, libraries and trails are safely out of smoke’s way, the Spokane Valley City Council passed interim regulations regarding the siting of marijuana sale and production facilities at Tuesday night’s regular meeting.
While the laws, effective as of next week, only will be in force for the next six months, the move gives the city some time to adjust as the state Liquor Control Board starts issuing recreational marijuana licenses.
“This creates buffers to the Centennial Trail and where future libraries and schools could occur,” said Erik Lamb, deputy city attorney.
Under state law already stipulates that 1,000-foot buffers for those types of “sensitive areas” that could be impacted by the legalization of recreational pot under Initiative 502. But the city is looking to create a trail along the extended Appleway right-of-way east of University Road and an expanded Balfour Park that could be the site of a new Valley library – areas where potential pot shops could set up first.
One potential entrepreneur praised the city for getting on top of the issue without resorting to an outright ban on marijuana, something the state attorney general has opined local jurisdictions could do. City legal experts, however, have warned that opinion may not hold up under future legal challenges.
“I appreciate the support for those of us involved in this industry,” Isaac Curtis told the council. “I appreciate your support and encouragement.”
Council Member Bill Bates said the move by the city to add a few more restrictions now is a good one – especially with the Legislature taking a closer look at the issue with potential new rules pending.
“I think this interim law is a great idea,” Bates said. “It gives us chance to see how things play out in Olympia.”
Since the council’s action is only an “interim” rule, it allowed the governing body to move forward without first conducing a public hearing, having the Planning Commission review the issue or the council conducting multiple readings. However, the council must conduct a public hearing on the interim regulations within the next 60 days and adopt findings of fact. The public hearing is scheduled for March 25.
In other news, the council is planning to update its Governance Manual soon and could approve a provision that would ban council members from reviewing text or e-mail messages during meetings.
The reason for inclusion, according to City Manager Mike Jackson, is an effort to “keep up with technology” and prevent the appearance that council members be receiving additional information via texts or e-mails that their colleagues might not also be seeing during meetings.
“Is this going on now?” asked Council Member Chuck Hafner. “That’s happening with this council?”
While the answer is no, Hafner wanted to know how such communication would be any different than if he talked with a member of city staff about an agenda topic before a council meeting. The answer, Jackson said, is that the electronic communication would be occurring during a public meeting.
The issue has come up in other jurisdictions, according to city staffers, and other cities have included similar bans of texts and e-mails during meetings.
“I just hope we’re not getting paranoid,” Hafner said.
A resolution adopting changes to the Governance Manual is expected to go before the council on Feb. 25.