Another recreational marijuana producer and processor business is looking to start up in East Jefferson County, and a number of its prospective neighbors took the time to lodge their objections.
Port Townsend residents Roger and Kathryn Hall made their case to Jefferson County Hearing Examiner Stephen Causseaux Aug. 28, to be granted a Type III conditional use permit and cottage industry permit for their proposed “Auntie Onolicious” business in the 100 block of Milo Curry Road in Port Townsend.
If those permits are approved, the Halls plan to establish a 2,000-square-foot canopy for the production and processing recreational marijuana in packaged bags, not in infused products or edibles, in a rural residential zone.
The producing and processing would take place entirely within six proposed recycled shipping containers — all six of which are 9 feet tall by 9 feet wide, but five of which are 45 feet long, while the sixth is 48 feet long — with full screen landscaping required to screen the use from the road and adjacent parcels.
David Wayne Johnson, project coordinator and associate planner for the Jefferson County Department of Community Development, testified that a noise survey study and report were prepared in support of the proposal, as were an odor management and mitigation plan, plus a residency verification.
Johnson noted the proposed marijuana facility is registered with the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency, and is subject to a stormwater management permit, but is exempt from State Environmental Policy Act review.
Johnson then recommended the approval of the application, citing the DCD's findings that the conditional use criteria had been satisfied.
To comply with the Jefferson County Comprehensive Plan, Johnson said the applicant had to demonstrate visual and rural character compatibility, as well as economic development and environmental quality, whereas to comply with the Jefferson County Code, he said the conditional use needed to meet the following criteria:
• Be harmonious with the existing area.
• Have adequate infrastructure to serve it.
• Not be detrimental to the property or its surroundings.
• Not introduce noise, smoke, dust, fumes, vibrations or odors.
• Not interfere with its neighbors through the location or size of its development.
• Not cause hazards through the pedestrian or vehicle traffic it creates.
• Not be incompatible with the airport.
• Not cause “significant adverse impacts” to the environment or surroundings.
• Have “merit and value” to the community as a whole.
• Not incur “substantial detrimental effect” to the public interest.
Roger Hall began the couple's presentation by emphasizing the small scale of their proposed operation, which would start with two family members, before growing to include two additional staff members.
Hall pledged to use 100 percent organic materials, abide by the Environmental Protection Agency in addition to all local, state and county regulations, and “generate revenue to help Jefferson County.”
Roger touted the Halls' 30 years in the Port Townsend area, including his volunteer work on various local parks, culminating in five years on the Jefferson County Park and Recreational Advisory Board, He also cited his wife Kathryn's technical expertise in the health, safety, environmental and risk management fields, including work on ventilation, odor and noise.
Hall presented the small size of their operation as affording them greater control to screen for impurities, complete with a filtered exhaust system he described as “designed to capture and filter all air.”
Kathryn Hall took over the presentation from her husband to address the cottage industry design, starting with its visual screening, which she explained would be enabled by the “low, slim profile” of the six shipping containers, as well as by a vegetative screen of Leyland Cypress trees and a lighting system designed to limit the amount of light cast beyond the boundaries of their own property.
Hall then summarized the findings of a noise survey, conducted during both the winter and again in the late spring and early summer, to establish the background noise levels while also assessing the projected noise levels from their operations' five planned exhaust systems and shredding of spent plant materials.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the survey found the loudest area noise source to be the Jefferson County Airport, since the proposed business site is located in the airport's flight path.
According to Kathryn Hall, all of these noise levels were calculated to fall below state code and within the allowable EPA definitions, with the sound abatement measures included in the Halls' plans.
To mitigate the odors from the growing, curing and drying of cannabis, Hall not only reiterated the benefits of a smaller sized operation, but also pledged they would use carbon filtration and electronic environmental controller systems, in addition to staggering their growing plan and controlling their exhaust run times, to limit the generation of odor and not blast air out continuously.
“And if an odor is detected by on-site personnel outside of the containers, or reported beyond the property line, an Odor Response Process will be initiated,” Hall said, as she displayed a template reporting form document, that would be entered into an odor tracking log. “Understanding what is happening, when an odor is detected, is key in determining the needed response to address the situation, at hand and for the future.”
The neighbors and other surrounding community members of the site who attended the hearing expressed their concerns about the proposed business in their own testimony.
Richard Riddle was not the last to voice misgivings about the property's access to Black Bear Road, which the Halls claimed would only be used by emergency or utility vehicles.
When Riddle suggested the business could create dust and additional traffic on the rural road outside the property, Roger Hall said he saw no reason why his non-retail business would draw more vehicles, and pledged to lay down gravel personally if necessary, citing previous experience at having done so.
Gretchen Wambaugh pointed out that construction vehicles had already used the property's access to Black Bear Road, and questioned how closely the business would be monitored, to ensure it wouldn't be selling directly from its site.
Causseaux seconded Kathryn Hall's assertions that the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board monitors such businesses closely, and even pays them unannounced visits, but Wambaugh recalled an illegal drug house in her area that stood for a year before action was taken.
Wambaugh's doubts about the business' “controls” were followed on by Barbara Smith, who worried that criminals would be drawn by what they perceived as the opportunity to score drugs, regardless of how the Halls responded.
Kathryn Hall noted the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board requires camera surveillance and an alarm system for cannabis businesses, but Smith was still put off by the idea of smells emanating from the property.
Andy Schmucker piggybacked onto this by asserting that marijuana odors would lead to trouble with the foster home for at-risk youth that stands relatively close by to the property, and asked if the presence of one cannabis business in a given location makes it easier for others to set up shop in a proximate location.
Johnson countered that exactly the opposite is true, and a second such operation would find it harder to be approved in that area, but the commenters did not express fewer qualms with the proposed business as a result.
“I hate to be the one who says I don't want it in my front yard, but I don't want it in my front yard,” said Schmucker, who was joined in this sentiment by Riddle.
Wambaugh additionally criticized the county for supplying what she considered insufficient notice of the hearing.
Everett Sorensen, of Streamline Environmental in Port Townsend, cited meetings with John Fleming, of Jefferson County Public Works, in crediting the Halls with responding to feedback on their stormwater dispersion by revising their plans and reconfiguring their systems.