The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

Marijuana store opens, defies city

Mayor denies attempts to push the store through behind city council and public



OPEN ANYWAY: Golden Dispensaries opened Saturday despite a city moratorium. The owner considers his state license to trump the city.

Golden Dispensaries retail marijuana store in Goldendale, granted a final approval license from the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) on Oct. 17, opened its doors for business Saturday, without a city business license and in defiance of the city's moratorium on marijuana retail stores.

The moratorium has no effective means of enforcement. Goldendale City Administrator Larry Bellamy says the city is still reviewing its options in regard to the store operating without a city business permit.

The city council met in executive session Monday night, ostensibly to weigh options in the face of anticipated litigation. The only word Tuesday on the outcome of that meeting was that no decisions were made and no comment was possible.

Contacted for comment on Goldendale's situation in the face of current developments, the Washington State Attorney General's Office (AGO) responded by citing the recent state Superior Court decision upholding the City of Wenatchee's ban on marijunana retail stores and the AGO's ongoing support of municipalities' right to ban such stores.

Goldendale Mayor Clinton Baze said last week that if the store opened Saturday, it would be in violation of law. "For one thing, the building permit hasn't been signed off because it still hasn't completed all the steps for the ADA ramps to access the bathrooms and also access the building," he said.

Baze has been accused by some of having worked to ensure the store secured a license and opened behind the backs of the city council and the public. He denies the charge.

"Well, we talked about it back on Nov. 20 of 2012," Baze says. "At that time they had presented to the council and we were shown a map with all the little circles of where it could and couldn't go in the city," referring to the law requiring a marijuana retail store to be at least 1,000 feet from certain places within a municipality. "At that time the council said, 'Well, we'll just let it go and see where it goes.' They didn't have a real concern about it; it was just we'd just see what happens. And then in December of 2013 they started coming out with the addresses and the places where all of these were going to happen. Well, it was broadcasted that 650 Llama Lane on Dec. 30 was one of those addresses. There were updates given about where the addresses were. Some people didn't want to hear that. They must not have been listening because it was updated. And then on Aug. 13, Dan Byers puts in for a building permit for 650 Llama Lane."

Byers did not indicate the nature of the business, only that it was a retail store. "That building of his has been there for, how many years?" Baze says. "At least seven that I know of, it's been sitting there and he's going to do something with it. He's talked about opening an RV park, he's talked about many different things he wants to do. So then he put in his request for a building permit. So the permit was issued so they could start building, and they ran into some snafus with the building not having the L&I sticker, and not having-because it was a mobile coach-having no way to do that, and I said, 'Well you need to get that, OK? You can proceed with caution, you know, go ahead and get your building set up and get everything going, but we will not sign off on that permit until it meets the requirement that the city requires.' Well, shortly thereafter the rumor started, again, that the marijuana shop was going in there. But we didn't get the business license application until Sep. 5."

Baze says it would have been wrong for the city to single out this particular business when it dutifully applied for a permit. "You can't deny somebody a building permit if they're going through all the right steps," he state. "He wants to put a building in there? OK. You can put that building in there, but you can have to get your L&I sticker. You have to do your handicapped ramps, and so when they applied for their business license, that's when they were told that they had to meet all the ADA standards for the building permit. Nothing has been finished, so the building permit hasn't been signed off, the license hasn't been issued. He had 10 days after then-I think the letter was issued on Sep. 7, and he had 10 days to respond to that. And he didn't respond to that, and a business license has still not been issued. So people are saying, 'How can the business license go through the council and not be approved?' Well, the business license hasn't been approved."

Any notion that he was trying to bulldoze the marijuana store through is mistaken, Baze asserts. "Absolutely false," he states. "You know, we treat every business as they come in equally. If someone wanted to come in and open up a pizza place, they'd come in and if they want to get a business license for this address we'd have to make sure it's zoned right and we'd have to make sure all that stuff is good, OK. We don't take it to council and say, 'Hey, these people want a business license for a pizza place.' So when 650 Llama Lane comes in, we didn't really have a lot of time from the time of the application of the business-or when the hearsay started-then we had the meeting, then he applied for his business license after the meeting on the second. And then after the meeting on the following Thursday, Sep. 5, is when he applied for the business license. So if I was trying to ram this in under everybody's noses, shouldn't I have to wait until after he files a business license to say OK? And if I would've taken that to council and said, 'Here's this business license application,' then I'm treating him differently. And at the time it's a legal business in the state of Washington."

Baze says he's repeatedly talked with city council about the store. "I've stated in many meetings, and I have fought on both sides to give everybody their opportunity to speak without getting out of control," he says. "I've told the council many times, 'You have to look at this from both sides. You can't just slam your fist down and not allow it; you have to go through the right steps. You have to get public input, and you have to look at both sides of the story before you make your decision, because if not, you're singling somebody out.' Either way we go, we're facing a lawsuit, you know. We're going to get people who are going to sue us if we allow it to go in, and if we don't allow it, they're going to sue us. If we do allow it, then we're going to get community members who will find a way to file a law suit.

"People have to be more open minded and use more realistic comprehension rather than shoot from the hip," Baze considers. "I really wish people would quit show-boating and get off their soap boxes and try to solve the problem. Right now they're just adding to it."

According to one source, at least one city council member claims to have reviewed all the city council meeting minutes and recordings since I-502 was passed and found no mention of any marijuana retail store in Goldendale in any of the meetings.

Baze says one workable solution would be to locate the retail store somewhere less objectionable than the intersection of Broadway and Highway 97. "I think to make everybody happy, the solution is going to be, 'OK, we don't want it in that particular location, let's find a location that is suitable for the shop and the citizens,'" he says. At its current location, the store is close to the Dairy Queen, where families and children often go. Baze says there are bigger issues than that, however.

"Well, you've got pot and meth and heroin in your schools," he says. "I mean, really, they could be focused on trying to eliminate the drug problem in school and get schools to participate more."

-with reports by Lisa Cunningham


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