On Monday, King County Council is scheduled to vote on a zoning code measure that includes an amendment that could bring marijuana growing and processing plants to urban reserves.
This vote has a growing group of residents on Redmond Ridge concerned because if the measure passes, it could greatly affect their community. Residents held a rally last Saturday on Redmond Ridge to bring attention to their cause and spread awareness among their neighbors who may not have been aware of the issue.
Endre Amiras, who has lived on Redmond Ridge since 2011, said he is concerned as a homeowner, resident and father.
He said in the last six months, a few “Costco-sized” warehouse buildings have been built in a densely populated area. The buildings are not currently occupied but community members are suspicious that they were built with marijuana growing and processing in mind, Amiras said.
One of the main issues that has Amiras and his neighbors worried is the potential effects such facilities could have on the environment. He and other area residents told the Reporter that the smell these types of facilities produce could get so bad that it would prevent people from going outside or even opening their windows.
King County Council member Kathy Lambert — who represents King County District 3, which includes Redmond Ridge — agrees.
She said the odor caused by cannabis growing and processing facilities is a bigger problem than people realize and it is startling how far the smells can travel from their originating location.
“That smell is awful. It is really, really overwhelming,” Lambert said, recalling a time she was called out to a resident’s home in Woodinville who lived by a marijuana facility. “I get it. (The smell is) horrible.”
She added that no one has been able to get a handle on how to deal with the odor and plans to add her own amendment to Monday’s measure that would require applicants to have an approved odor plan before they can get a license.
In addition to the smell, residents are also concerned about the pollution these facilities could produce and release into the environment.
Amiras said there are a lot of different chemicals and pollutants that could be produced by these facilities — from air pollution to contaminated water runoff, all levels and aspects will be affected.
“All of this is going to be released into the environment,” he said.
Vinod Sharma, who has been living on Redmond Ridge East for about six years, shared his concerns regarding the environmental impact, noting that not only is the area densely populated, it has a large concentration of families and children and as a result, schools.
He said pot growing and processing facilities are bad for the community, adding that the air pollution could potentially reach the health risk level of the water crisis in Flint, Mich.
THE REAL ESTATE MARKET
Jo Dixit, a realtor and real estate investor, said in her professional opinion, bringing in cannabis facilities could lead to a huge reduction in property values.
She said these facilities could also lead to long cycle times in selling homes.
“It’ll be difficult to sell,” she said.
Dixit explained that when people are looking to buy a home, there are many factors they consider. One of those is the quality of life in the community. The quality of life would go down in a community if there is an overwhelming odor in the air, she said. Would people want to buy a home in a community where their children couldn’t play outside, she asked.
THE INCORPORATION PROCESS BEGINS
The residents of Redmond Ridge and Redmond Ridge East would like to see King County Council put more thought and consideration into the issue before they vote on Monday.
“They are our local government,” Sharma said about the council. “We do not have anyone else to speak for us as we are unincorporated.”
This may not be for long, though, as the community has begun the process to become incorporated. Sharma said people are getting fed up with this “taxation without representation,” meaning they do not feel King County Council members always have their community’s best interests in mind.
Sharma said he does not blame the council for this because King County is such a large county.
Julie Theurer agrees. The 11-year Redmond Ridge resident said as their district representative, Lambert does a great job, but she is only one voice representing such a large area.
“We’re not getting our interests being looked after,” Theurer said.
Lambert understands the residents and their situation. She said King County Council is not a good local government because they have to work as a regional government, as well.
Lambert said in order for them to be a good local government, council members’ votes would need to be weighted as two of the council members represent about 80 percent of unincorporated King County. The other council members’ districts have more incorporated areas, meaning those communities have local governments, as well.
Lambert’s district is about 56 percent unincorporated.
She said if the Redmond Ridge community can legally become incorporated, she will be so happy because that would allow them to have a mayor to send to Sound Cities meetings, which include all of the incorporated cities in the county. A lot of decisions that affect residents throughout the county are made at these meetings, Lambert said, and Redmond Ridge should have a voice, as well.
“This (area) is like a city,” she said.