New pot stores on hold to get ‘better understanding’ of effects on residents
By Jack Mayne
King County has suspended issuing of permits for retail pot stores in unincorporated areas of the county until officials get a better fix on the effects of such stores on area residents.
Several applications for new stores in the unincorporated areas of the North Highline White Center are on hold, says County Council President Joe McDermott, who represents the northern parts of Burien, SeaTac and Tukwila, along with the North Highline and White Center unincorporated areas.
McDermott says residents have told him that the impacts of marijuana sales have impacts on their lives.
“Individuals in rural communities have expressed concern that the security requirements (required in the initiative approved by voters) do not match the rural character of their neighborhood,” McDermott said in an email to the White Center and B-Town Blogs.
“Specific to North Highline, we’ve heard concerns about a clustering of retail businesses,” the County Councilmember said.
McDermott, who is also running for Congress this year to replace namesake, but unrelated Congressman Jim McDermott, said the Council has imposed a moratorium on new pot stores in unincorporated King County.
Too many were being clustered in unincorporated north King County, said resident Mark Johnston in an April 16 letter published in the White Center Blog. He said “13 retail marijuana stores have been licensed in unincorporated King County … with six in White Center/North Highline.”
McDermott said the county needed time to gauge the effect of pot stores on the local areas.
“The purpose of the moratorium approved by the County Council is to give us the opportunity to engage with communities to get a better understanding of how the marijuana industry is impacting them,” McDermott told the Blogs in a recent response. “This time will also allow us to engage everyone – neighbors, shop owners, growers, patients and others – and hear their ideas for possible solutions to the issues they’re facing. This feedback received will inform our policy development.”
But he said there was no thought of banning any new stores in the unincorporated areas.
“The voters overwhelmingly voted to legalize marijuana in our state,” McDermott said. “It is the county’s job to make a workable policy that balances sufficient access to legal marijuana and its impact on communities.”
He added that his “primary concern” is not about how much tax money is collected but is figuring out how to make marijuana available to residents in “a workable business climate and limited effect on communities.”
That could affect tax revenue, but it is not “my primary concern,” and noting that the projected county income from pot sales this fiscal year is less than $1 million.
McDermott added, “the permitting process will continue for businesses that submitted their applications prior to the moratorium being adopted.”
The moratorium does not affect incorporated cities, only unincorporated King County.
The City of Burien on Wednesday announced that Ekalo Teklehaimanot, of Living Well Enterprises LLC has applied to open a recreational marijuana retail Store at 17730 Ambaum Blvd. South (details here).
This would be Burien’s second retail pot shop (of two allowed), with the first currently being built at the old KC’s Family Restaurant located at 14325 First Ave South (read about that here). City officials say a decision on a business permit is still pending but expected soon, said city Communications Officer Katie Trefry.
Kent and Federal Way do not permit location of marijuana stores in their cities.