The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Andrew Christiansen
Reporter 

Council approves moratorium on pot sales in Goldendale

 


Goldendale’s City Council voted unanimously to approve a six month moratorium on the production, processing and retail sale of recreational marijuana during Monday’s regular meeting. The issue was also sent to the ordinance committee for a Sept. 22 meeting at City Hall at 7 p.m. The charge for the committee is to discuss the issue and set a date for public hearing which must be held within 60 days of Monday’s vote.

The vote for a moratorium is the outcome of a public meeting held last Thursday and the public awareness of a planned retail shop that is in the process of being developed near the intersection of Broadway Street and SR 97. The vote followed two presentations in favor of the moratorium by people opposed to the business. Karen Henslee presented the Council with petition asking the Council to ban retail sales of marijuana. Henslee argued that while the State voted for Initiative 502, votes from Goldendale were against the initiative, suggesting Goldendale citizens don’t want marijuana sold in Goldendale. She asked the Council how it fit into the city’s long range plans and asked them if they wanted approval of a marijuana business on their record.

Also allowed to speak, although not on the agenda, was Michael Garnett, M.D., who told of data that indicated the health hazards of marijuana. Garnett likened the current situation with marijuana to the “Chesterfield era,” and showed examples of how cigarettes were deemed acceptable and even healthful back in the 1950’s.

While the Council indicated they viewed the moratorium as a way to give them time to study the issue further before making any final decisions, proponents of the developing business called the decision absurd, biased and unconstitutional. Dan Byers, who provided the site for the prospective business threatened a law suit. Byers said “it amazes me the way people are acting here.” Byers said he feels like he is being picked on when “all I said was yes,” to a prospective business.

Byers was one of 18 people to address the Council during the comments portion of the meeting. In addition to Byers, Richard Ellis, who has already begun preparing the location for his business, said he came to Goldendale to start a small business. He said he has used local contractors for the work and stated that he had been here a year and that none of the council members ever visited him and never gave him a chance to explain his business. He suggested The Sentinel had presented a biased picture of the business because owner/editor Lou Marzeles “openly stood against us,” referring to last week’s public meeting. Another supporter of the business, Brad Johnson was dismayed at the sudden opposition, stating that The Sentinel had written about it on Nov. 20, 2013 and on July 23, 2014.

Another proponent of the business, Jim Eddy, of Hoquiam, who said he represented the Washington State Marijuana League, complained about the unbalanced manner in the way the issue was presented with only opponents speaking prior to the vote on the moratorium, and the limited time allowed during public comment. Eddy said that the Council had already sanctioned the business by issuing permits to Ellis. He said the city would be liable for the lost money invested by Ellis and for $20,000 per week in lost revenue.

Most of those opposed to the marijuana business cited concerns about increased availability of the drug in the community. Peggy Woodard also expressed concern about her property values, particularly since she lives near the proposed location of the business. Woodard said she wants people to come here and she doesn’t believe “a pot shop on the corner is the hallmark of desirability.”

Jacob Smith said that allowing the business amounts to embracing the drug culture and that it is a step in the wrong direction.

There were comments on the side of medical marijuana and comments about drugs causing damage to them or their relatives.

Pastor T.J. Wilder told the Council that he didn’t envy their position and asked them to ask God for guidance on their decision.

In other business the Council approved the purchase of a 2003 Ford Explorer as a replacement vehicle for the Public Works Department and Karl Enyeart reported that the reservoir has been constructed and will be filled and inspected this week.

City Manager Larry Bellamy reported that there have been 128 nuisance complaints from January through August, about normal for the year. He also said none have been referred to the citizens’ review board as people have complied with requests to address the problems. He also reported that there has been $28,000 from building permits to date with about $2 million in valuation for those buildings.

The next regular meeting will be Sept. 22, 7 p.m. at City Hall.

 

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