People hold up signs at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to protest allowing marijuana retail stores in Redmond. Samantha Pak

Council votes 6-0 to allow retail pot stores in Redmond

At Tuesday's business meeting, Redmond City Council voted unanimously, 6-0, to allow retail marijuana stores in Redmond.

At Tuesday’s business meeting, Redmond City Council voted unanimously, 6-0, to allow retail marijuana stores in Redmond.

Mayor John Marchione and council member Hank Myers were absent and excused from the meeting.

Council’s vote comes about three and a half years after Washingtonians voted to legalize recreational marijuana and a little more than two years after Redmond received its first two retail marijuana stores through the state lottery.

After the years-long wait, Jenny Carbon — who was awarded the first retail business in Redmond, which she has dubbed The Grass is Always Greener — said she is thrilled to have the city’s support and thanked each member of city council. During the public comments portion of Tuesday’s meeting, before council’s vote, Carbon said she hoped to see council members at her store’s ribbon cutting when they open — the only difference being that they would be cutting a hemp cord rather than a regular ribbon.

The Redmond ordinance will allow retail marijuana stores in mixed-use, office and retail zones in downtown and Overlake Village zones as well as in general commercial and regional retail zones. There will be at least a 1,000-foot buffer between retail cannabis stores and playgrounds and schools. From other state-defined sensitive uses including parks, libraries, recreation centers, child care centers, transit centers and arcades, there will be at least a 100-foot buffer. There will be no separation requirement between stores.

According to the ordinance, there will be no limit on the number of stores in the city, though the state limit is four for Redmond (the city was originally awarded two stores in the state lottery and received two additional stores earlier this year).

In addition, development standards such as building height and parking requirements for the retail pot shops will be the same as for retail use in that particular zone.

While there will be no special parking requirements for marijuana stores, the topic was discussed by council members as well as individuals who addressed council during the public comments portion of the meeting. The commenters were a combination of those who were in favor of stricter parking requirements and those who argued that stricter parking regulations would shut out retail marijuana stores before they had the opportunity to open in Redmond.

Council discussed at length about parking after council member Kim Allen proposed an amendment that would require retail pot shops to have at least 10 parking spots in certain zones. During the discussion, Allen said downtown community members are already concerned that a high-traffic business such as a retail cannabis store would make parking even more difficult.

“We can always scale it back,” Allen said about the number of parking spots.

Allen as well as commenters from the public cited studies and data from Colorado as well as Higher Leaf Marijuana Boutique in Kirkland, stating a marijuana store could see as many as 400 trips per day, compared to other uses such as a drive-thru pharmacy or regular retail store, which would see closer to about 90 and 40 trips per day, respectively.

During the discussion, council president Hank Margeson shared his concern that going from about 2-3.5 required parking spots to 10 would wipe out any opportunity for a marijuana retail shop to open in town and the whole point of the ongoing work and Tuesday’s vote was to enable stores to open in Redmond. He also pointed out that in areas such as downtown, people would be able to park centrally and walk to a store, versus a manufacturing zone where there is no sidewalk or way to access a store other than driving and parking in the lot.

In addition, a number of commenters, including Carbon’s partner Shauna Mindt, said no other jurisdiction in Washington has placed any additional parking requirements for pot stores and this would just further burden business owners. In addition, commenters said cannabis stores should be treated just like any other retail store and noted that stores where liquor and cigarettes are sold do not have any special parking requirements.

Allen’s proposed amendment did not pass when council voted. The vote was 5-1 opposed.

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