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County proposal would allow pot at K2 building
By NATALIE MARTIN
As community interest grows in the potential purchase of the K2 building by a marijuana company, King County has proposed an amendment to its comprehensive plan that would allow marijuana growing and processing at the property.
County representatives will take comments on the proposed amendment at a public meeting on Vashon next Wednesday. The amendment will be considered by the King County Council as soon as next month.
“We want to go to the community and ask what their thoughts are … and see what kind of information we get back,” said Lisa Verner, the legislative coordinator for the county’s Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER). “That will help us tailor the language we then propose to the council.”
Meanwhile, Bakkhos Holding, the company that is close to purchasing the K2 building, is inviting islanders to attend its own public meeting on Vashon this week. At the meeting, scheduled for this Thursday, Bakkhos representatives will discuss their plans to grow marijuana and make Edipure-brand edible pot products at the K2 building, as well as answer questions and hear comments or concerns, said Dan Anglin, a spokesman for the company.
Bakkhos is under contract to purchase the building, according to Anglin, but has not yet closed on it. Anglin said the company wanted a chance to talk to islanders before they attended the hearing on the county’s proposed amendment.
“The closing of the sale of the building is really predicated by whether or not we can use it,” Anglin said. “In order to encourage support of our use, we feel it’s important to introduce ourselves to the community prior to the public meeting.”
The proposed amendment, which was announced last Friday, stems from a conflict between a marijuana ordinance passed by the county council last year and the Vashon Town Plan, which is folded into the King County Comprehensive Plan.
The ordinance, adopted in December, allows legal marijuana businesses to set up shop in parts of King County zoned as Community Business and Industrial. However, when businesses began to express interest in growing and processing pot on Vashon — particularly at the K2 building — officials with DPER realized that a special business district that Vashon’s Town Plan Committee created in 1996 would prevent marijuana business in much of the island’s core. The business district, which creates a zoning overlay in parts of Vashon town, Center and at the K2 building, has many permitted uses outlined by the creators of the 1996 town plan, but marijuana growing and processing are not included.
So far the only companies to apply with the state for marijuana licenses inside the special business district have been ones interested in the K2 building. One company applied for a license using the address of the Vashon Athletic Club, but the club’s owner said the application is not legitimate.
Verner said the county council wasn’t aware of the zoning conflict when it passed the December ordinance. Now in order to allow marijuana business in those parts of Vashon, she said, it has proposed amending the comprehensive plan to add those uses to the zoning overlay.
The proposal would allow marijuana growing, processing and retail at properties zoned Community Business, and growing and processing at those zoned Industrial.
“In my opinion, this is really going back to fully implement the intent of the council,” Verner said.
Joe McDermott, Vashon’s representative on the King County Council agreed. He said he supports the proposal and believes it would have wide support on the council as well.
“My goal from the beginning is to be consistent across the county in how we permit growing, production and retail operations and to not have special circumstances for any part of the county,” he said. “When we were doing the adoption of the ordinance, I was unaware of the special town overlay, so I do think it’s consistent to not prohibit it in the town overlay.”
Officials at DPER said last month that a comprehensive plan amendment was possible, but that it would require a long process with ample opportunity for public feedback, likely taking up to a year to complete.
The proposal announced Friday, however, will be forwarded to the county council by March 3 and could go up for vote as soon as late March. If passed, it would require final approval by County Executive Dow Constantine.
Ty Peterson, a commercial product line manager at DPER who previously said the amendment could take a year, explained that such amendments have sometimes taken a year to be completed, but the county council can act on proposals as quickly as it chooses.
McDermott said that the timing for the amendment seems normal, especially considering that the council spent a significant amount of time on the marijuana ordinance it passed last year.
“It’s still fresh in our minds,” he said.
Jim Chan, DPER’s director of permitting, pointed out that the amendment is not the only hurdle preventing Bakkhos from carrying out its plans at K2. Since the company would also like to manufacture marijuana packaging products at the property, it would need to get the building rezoned from Community Business to Industrial.
Anglin concurred, but said that he believes Bakkhos would have to get the building rezoned to make edible pot products at the site as well, as its process for infusing candy and other food products with marijuana is considered to be manufacturing.
Chan said Vashon’s town plan is the only one in unincorporated King County, so Vashon is the only place where local zoning conflicts with the county’s December ordinance. Other cities in King County and across the state have passed local ordinances attempting to prohibit or limit marijuana business in their towns, something Vashon does not currently have the option to do, Chan said.
Should the comprehensive plan amendment be approved, and should Bakkhos close on the K2 building and get it rezoned, the company will still be required to obtain marijuana growing and processing business permits from the state, as well as a Conditional Use Permit from the county.
McDermott said he has heard from islanders who support Bakkhos’ plans on Vashon as well as those who have concerns. While he hasn’t taken a stance on the potential business at K2, he said he believes it is in the island’s and the county’s best interest to see K2 used again.
“A productive use of the K2 facility, whether it’s the current proposal for a marijuana grow operation or something else, using the site productively is very much in the island’s best interest,” he said.
Other islanders are attempting to organize conversation around the developments at the K2 property.
Tim Johnson, president of the Vashon Maury Island Community Council, said the council was already planning to discuss marijuana at the K2 building at its next regular meeting, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 24.
“I hear a lot of people talking about it, and I’ve heard so many rumors it will make your head spin,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he thought the community council could be a good place to gauge community sentiment about the issue, learn what questions islanders have and try to get answers.
“Instead of people one-on-one talking all over about what they think, maybe we need to have a group conversation about what’s important, what do we know and what do we not know,” he said.
Bill Moyer, executive director of the Backbone Campaign, is raising questions about potential contamination at the property, a former ski manufacturing site. Moyer said he is working to find out whether thorough environmental testing has been completed at the site. He said he is concerned that the environmental assessment previously performed by K2, which Bakkhos is relying on in its purchase, may not be adequate, and that potential contamination could pollute groundwater in the future.
Moyer said he and a small group of islanders are also exploring alternative uses for the site and possible funding sources for development there, should the sale to Bakkhos not go through.
“It’s not that we’re hoping for contamination. … The most important thing is we are not failing to find out one way or the other in our one moment of leverage,” he said.
On Monday night Moyer announced a public meeting for tonight, Wednesday, to discuss the issue with those interested.
A representative of the K2 Corporation could not be reached for comment, and representatives from Cushman & Wakefield, the commercial real estate broker selling the K2 building, have not returned calls from The Beachcomber.
Anglin, however, said he is aware of Moyer’s concerns and believes they are unfounded. He said he believes the environmental assessment of the site that Bakkhos was provided was conducted to industry standards. The report has been examined by their lawyers, he said, and the company believes there aren’t contamination issues at the property.
“The concerns that people have are based on suspicions that we don’t have,” he said.
McDermott said he is aware of the environmental concerns about the site and is currently trying to get more information from the county and the state Department of Ecology.
The Backbone Campaign will host a meeting at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, at the Open Space for Arts and Community, 18870 103rd Ave. SW.
Bakkhos Holding will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, at the Open Space for Arts & Community.
A meeting on the proposed county amendment will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at McMurray Middle School.
Comments on the amendment can also be emailed by Feb. 26 to Cathy Ortiz at Cathy.firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Cathy Ortiz, King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review, 35030 SE Douglas Street, Suite 210, Snoqualmie, WA 98065.