Town council weighs zoning restrictions on retail pot shops

The usual brief and methodical Friday Harbor Town Council meetings were replaced Oct. 17 by a fast-paced day working on a full agenda and visiting with a contingent of County Council members at a joint session.

After excusing another absence by town Councilman Felix Menjivar (his eighth straight since the primary election), the council jumped into the two-page agenda at the usual noon and 5:30 p.m. meetings.

The agenda was jammed with two ordinances, three resolutions, the 2014 town budget, the lodging tax grant recommendations, a joint meeting with the San Juan County Council, a thank you from Lynn Danaher for the council’s support of the “highly successful” first annual Friday Harbor Film Festival, and a public hearing on where a marijuana store could be located in the town.

The marijuana zoning ordinance, part of the late afternoon council session, attracted the most public interest, especially when town planning chief Mike Bertrand said a marijuana retail store would probably be limited to a strip along Mullis Street, from the Technology Building to Browne’s Home Center.

The council expects to pass the ordinance in the coming few weeks so that interested pot entrepreneurs can apply for the coveted license for San Juan Island. Orcas and Lopez islands are also slated to be licensed for one store each under regulations implementing initiative 502, the voter-approved measure which legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults in Washington state.

The first agenda item of the day, however, was an ordinance amending the 2002 Town of Friday Harbor Comprehensive Plan. The new plan updates the six year transportation and capital facilities plans, laying out plans for roads, the water system, the sewer and wastewater system and the solid waste management system.

The rest of the early afternoon was spent in a joint meeting with the San Juan County Council, reviewing such subjects as the port fire rebuilding plans and being updated on the water transmission line project, the Cattle Point Road project, the tourism master plan and other items of mutual interest.

After the public hearing on marijuana at the 5:30 p.m. session, the crowd disbursed and the council dug into the first general outline of its 2014 budget.

Although total revenues and expenditures were not available, the first rough cut includes a 2 percent property tax increase and a $2 increase in the water base charge, from $40 per month in 2013 to $42 per month in 2014. A proposed five-percent sewer base charge increase, from $97.75 per month to $102.65 per month has been removed from the budget.

A new recycling charge of $2 per can and an increase of the yard waste charge from $1 to $2 per can are contemplated, as are a 1.5-percent wage increase for all employees and a two percent increase in the amount budgeted for law enforcement services paid to San Juan County.

The budget will be front-and-center for the rest of the year for the council, with final passage of next year’s spending and expenditure plan expected at the last council meeting in December.

The agenda for the next council meeting, scheduled Nov. 7 after the election, is not expected to be quite as full – but one item for the agenda, according to Mayor Carrie Lacher, may be the repeated absence of Menjivar from council meetings.


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