The Wasco County Planning Commission will present a recommendation on how to regulate marijuana businesses to the County Commission before the end of the year.
The planning commission held three work sessions in November and met again last Tuesday to draft a time, place and manner ordinance for marijuana businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The draft is on the planning commission’s website and is modeled after Clackamas County’s ordinance. However, Wasco County’s is more restrictive.
The ordinance would prevent all marijuana businesses from occurring in residential and rural residential zones, which puts most of the growing in agricultural and forest zones, the processing in industrial and partial zones and the retail in commercial and light industrial zones.
Clackamas allows marijuana uses in residential zones to those who meet a minimum parcel size.
“The planning commission felt very strongly that they would prefer to start with a draft that was more protective of the quality of life of citizens and hear from people who are interested in development opportunities and why they should be allowed as opposed to allow development with fewer parameters and then hear from residents who are concerned about the safety of their children,” Planning Director Angie Brewer said.
Wasco County’s draft also includes setbacks — 1,000 feet for schools, public parks, daycares, preschools and churches, and 200 feet from residential zone properties.
“We took a conservative approach and anticipate feedback about the changes they’d like to see,” Brewer said. “It is definitely more conservative but I’d also say that we are a county, as someone described it, that is holding the line. We are one of those counties that holds a good mixture of folks that are for it [legalizing marijuana businesses] and folks that are against it. So if you take that neutral line, that’s what this draft contains. It contains an ordinance that keeps it out of the residential zones and allows it in the resource lands and industrial lands. It is a pretty middle of the road approach.”
The planning commission has an interactive map on its homepage where people can see their zoning.
“It basically lets you zoom in on your property and see the zoning,” Brewer said. “If anybody has any need of assistance in navigating that, I can definitely help. When in doubt, shoot us an email or call, we’d be happy to look at the zoning, it just takes a second.”
On Wednesday, Dec. 9, the commission will post a final draft online and then hold two public hearings, Dec. 16 and 21 at 3 p.m., at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center.
“I am expecting some feedback about the rural residential zones because we did have quite a few calls early on about growing operations in those zones,” Brewer said. “I asked our folks to wait and see, we were not sure what those zones were going to be like at that time. We don’t know how many investments have occurred since last spring. Any feedback folks have, feel free to send it to me electronically or attend the planning commission meetings and provide testimony. We want that. We need that.”
Planning will then present its final draft to the board of commissioners in a public hearing on Monday, Dec. 28 at 5:30 p.m. in the Wasco County Courthouse, Room 302. If adopted as an emergency ordinance, the rules could become effective Jan. 1.
Since the county voted against Ballot Measure 91, which legalizes recreational marijuana, the county commissioners also have the option to opt out of all the marijuana business models and put the issue on the November 2016 ballot.
But so far the commissioners have only asked planning to look at time, place and manner ordinances.