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Redmond Ridge residents lit up about marijuana ordinance

A Redmond Ridge resident speaks at Monday’s King County Council meeting about his concerns about having a marijuana processing plant in the community. - Courtesy of Jen Boon
A Redmond Ridge resident speaks at Monday’s King County Council meeting about his concerns about having a marijuana processing plant in the community.
— image credit: Courtesy of Jen Boon

A proposed ordinance regarding development regulations for recreational marijuana producers, processors and retailers prompted Redmond Ridge residents to make the drive across the water to attend Monday’s King County Council meeting in Seattle to voice their concerns about how their community could be affected.

Language had been recently added to King County ordinance 2013-0472 that could potentially bring a marijuana processing plant to the Ridge.

After closing Monday’s public hearing, members of the King County Council delayed further discussion on the proposed ordinance until their next full council meeting this Monday. They are scheduled to discuss the proposed ordinance and the public testimony that they received.

SINGLED OUT

While members of the Redmond Ridge community — which is densely populated with families — have concerns regarding the effects a marijuana processing plant could have on their health and safety, they are also concerned about the fact that Redmond Ridge is singled out specifically in the proposed ordinance.

Section 8 allows marijuana processing in several zones and specifically, “in the Redmond Ridge Business Park, processing at different scales and intensity is allowed depending on whether the area is inside or outside the urban growth area and the type of permitting process.” In addition, Section 9 states, “(in) the Redmond Ridge Business Park indoor marijuana production is allowed with size limits based on the permitting process.”

“The proposed ordinance would allow up to 10,000 square feet of production and/or processing as a permitted use in the Redmond Ridge Business Park and up to 30,000 square feet as a conditional use permit,” said Jarrod Lewis with King County’s Department of Permitting and Environmental Review. “The same provision applies to both Section 8 for processing and Section 9 for production.”

He said the addition of the Redmond Ridge Business Park to the proposed ordinance was added to the second draft that was published Oct. 17. King County held four public outreach meetings in the summer and Lewis said they received feedback that these uses (production and/or processing) should be allowed in the business park.

Jen Boon, president of the Redmond Ridge Residential Owners Association, said this change was made in response to one piece of feedback the county received, which is why they are the only community mentioned by name in the ordinance. She added that she hopes when King County Council members saw the 120 or so Redmond Ridge residents at Monday’s meeting opposing the ordinance, they would take that feedback into consideration.

Boon said the Redmond Ridge community’s concern is not exactly about being “anti-pot.” It’s about how they feel the same rules should apply to the entire county and not just their community.

Lewis said the Redmond Ridge Business Park is located within the urban growth area — as mandated by the Growth Management Act (GMA) and has similar uses to parcels zoned as community business (CB) or regional business (RB). The development agreement for Redmond Ridge allows uses in the business park that are very similar to existing CB and RB uses, he said, and the proposed ordinance seeks to allow marijuana processing and production in CB and RB zones.

“The public comment questioned why a business park with current uses similar to uses allowed in the CB and RB zones should not allow similarly proposed marijuana business uses,” Lewis said. “There are no other UR (Urban Reserve) zoned business parks in King County that have a developer agreement, which overlays similar CB and RB uses such as Redmond Ridge, and thus no other developments are addressed in the proposal.”

HEALTH AND SAFETY

A potential marijuana processing plant also has Redmond Ridge residents worried about the effects it may have on the community’s health and safety.

“The concerns are on multiple fronts,” said Ritu Gupta, who has lived on the Ridge since 2004.

The mother of two daughters, ages 7 and 10, said legalization of marijuana is still new, so there are still a lot of unknowns. For one, she said, they don’t know what side effects there may be from breathing air affected by a marijuana processing plant — pointing out that 50 years ago, people didn’t know how much damage could be caused through second-hand smoking.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” Gupta said.

Safety is also a concern among residents.

Sen. Andy Hill of Redmond also spoke at Monday’s council meeting after receiving more than 150 emails from concerned constituents over the course of the Thanksgiving weekend. He said a marijuana processing plant could go many places, and questioned why someone would put one where there are so many children.

“Is this the best place to put something like this?” he asked, adding that processing plants should be located in more industrial areas.

Hill said marijuana is a heavily taxed commodity with a rate of 25 percent for the grower, seller and buyer, each. With such high taxes, a processing plant could potentially attract a lot of crime as some people would want to break in to steal the pot and sell it on the black market.

Virginia Onu, who has lived on Redmond Ridge for nine years, said they already have a difficult time receiving adequate response times from the King County Sheriff’s Office and the potential of more crime would only compound the issue.

The site of the potential processing facility meets the state’s required distance of 1,000 feet from public parks, schools and daycares, but there are trails and private parks located within that buffer zone that are not included. In addition, Rosa Parks Elementary School and The Goddard School are within walking distance.

“My concern is responsible zoning, not a debate on whether marijuana should be legal,” said Onu, who spoke at Monday’s meeting, as well. “People hold diverse views on the legality of marijuana but I would hope that despite our diverse views on this issue we can all agree that the zoning regarding these facilities should be responsible. A heavily populated neighborhood is simply not the place for such a facility.”

Like Hill, she said such a facility should be located in an industrial zone. Onu, along with Boon and Gupta all said just because something is legal, does not make it socially responsible.

“The reason for not having these facilities in these neighborhoods is sound,” Onu said.

According to Redmond Ridge resident Julianne Bogaty, members of the community will return to the King County Courthouse again this Monday at 1:30 p.m. for the King County Council meeting.

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