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Town plan amendment gets mixed reactions at public meeting
At a public meeting Wednesday evening, islanders spoke both for and against a proposed amendment to the Vashon Town Plan that would allow marijuana business at the K2 building as well as other locations around Vashon town and Center.
Written comments on the proposal can be submitted to King County until Feb. 26.
The meeting drew more than 200 islanders, who packed into the cafeteria at Chautauqua Elementary School.
Many in attendance commented that they supported Bakkhos Holding’s plans to purchase the K2 building and grow marijuana and manufacture marijuana-infused candy and other products there. They largely focused on the fact that the company would create local jobs and make use of a building that has sat empty for years.
“I see a lot of people opposing something that is going to bring jobs to a lot of people who need them,” said Tim Johnson.
Others brought up a variety of concerns about the company’s plans, some saying they worried that the operation would attract crime or that the product would get into the hands of kids and teens. Others said they were concerned that the site was contaminated from past use and should be cleaned, something the company has denied. Still others focused on the environmental impact of growing and processing marijuana.
Several people said they believed King County is moving forward with its town plan amendment too quickly, not providing time for the community to vet the change. They are also circulating a petition to the county, asking officials to hold off on the amendment while Vashon completes it’s own town plan update, a process that would take about a year.
“Having a week to make this kind of decision is not the blueprint for change outlined in the town plan,” said Merrilee Runyan. “Vashon has little control over its destiny. … It’s important to take the time.”
At one point in the evening, one of the owners of Bakkhos Holding, Scott Bergin, stood up to comment. He spoke to his company’s plans, said the product would be distributed only off-island, and largely focused on the environmental concerns that have been raised by the Backbone Campaign.
“We do not want to buy a piece of property that is contaminated. It serves no purpose,” he said.
The latter portion of the meeting turned into a discussion about other businesses within the boundaries of the town plan which have apparently been in violation of the town plan. Many in the crowd advocated for those businesses, particularly the Seattle Distilling Company, and asked that Vashon be given time to revise the town plan to include them.
King County officials at the meeting said they only recently learned of the situation and they didn’t know how the county would move forward with those businesses.
Joe McDermott, Vashon’s representative on the King County Council, was at the meeting, as was Lauren Smith, a top advisor in King County Executive Dow Constantine’s office.
Lisa Verner, the legislative coordinator for the county’s Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER), said the county will now consider comments made at the meeting, as well as written comments submitted by Feb. 26. Should the county move forward, it will send a final proposal to the executive’s office and transmit it to the King County Council by the deadline of March 3. Should the council consider the proposal, it will hold a public hearing on it and vote as early as late March.
Written comments on the amendment can be emailed to Cathy Ortiz at Cathy.Ortiz@kingcounty.gov or mailed to Cathy Ortiz, King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review, Snoqualmie, WA 98065.