A group of Maple Valley residents have voiced concern with the proposed construction of two industrial warehouse buildings that would be used to process and produce marijuana.
The proposed site is located in unincorporated Maple Valley at a dead end between Southeast 248th Street and Highway 18. The commercial site development permit calls for two approximately 20,00 square foot industrial warehouse buildings with industrial zoning.
The Department of Permitting and Environmental Review will issue an Environmental Threshold Determination under the State Environmental Policy Act following the 21-day public comment period, which ended Sept. 2. A group of neighbors with questions and concerns about the development met on Aug. 20 and 27th, inviting King County officials for discussion. Residents also set up an online petition on Facebook at: Stop the Pot Growing Facility in Maple Valley.
Ty Peterson, Commercial Product Line Manager with the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review, said he’d received “a lot” of comments on the application — from crime, noise and environmental concerns, to those who simply are opposed to marijuana.
“It’s fair to say there is a wide range of concerns by people,” he said. “There are notable concerns there.”
Maple Valley Industries LLC applied for a Commercial Site Development Permit to prepare a 6.48 acre site for the future construction of two concrete buildings. The permit was received on June 17 and deemed complete eight days later. The permit allows an applicant to clear and grade a site and install the necessary infrastructure, such as parking, sidewalk and street improvements, drainage and utility facilities, landscaping and building envelopes. The applicant proposed the phased construction of the two buildings. The applicant requested a license from the Washington State Liquor Control Board to use portions of the buildings for the processing and production of marijuana, as well as other light industrial uses.
Although that area is generally designated as rural, the applicant’s site, triangle-shaped piece of property, is zoned industrial. That zoning allows for a wide range of manufacturing land uses, including recreational Marijuana Producer and Marijuana Processor I and II.
Peterson said that although the intent is for marijuana growth, if the marijuana license application is denied, the company could manufacture anything else.
“The use is not our consideration,” he said. “Right now it’s just a commercial site permit.”
The location has been zoned industrial for more than 25 years. Peterson said the property used to have direct access to Highway 18 and his suspicion is that it was used for a variety of light manufacturing and industrial uses. The state purchased the property in mid-90s in order to expand the highway.
“When the access was removed by 18, should it have been rezoned? Probably,” Peterson said. “They just never looked at. The state (Department of Transportation) owned it, so it has just always been industrial.”
King County code allows for marijuana production on a minimum of 30,000 square feet, which means at least 10,000 square feet of the property would need to be for a different use.
Peterson said the company would start conducting the initial review once the comment period ended.
Peterson said there is no typical timeline on the process, with some studies finishing in a month, while others go on for years.
“There are a lot of variables,” Peterson said. “…I publicly told a group of neighbors that I would be surprised if anything got through in 60 days.”
Peterson said the county will continue to take comments of factual important after the SEPA comment period.
“Any facts that are brought to light will be in consideration,” he said. “We are trying to identify the issues of greatest concern. We’ve already learned quite a bit from information that has been submitted. It’s an important part of the process.”
Covington extends medical marijuana moratorium
The city of Covington will continue its moratorium on medical marijuana until February.
The City Council adopted an ordinance on Aug. 12 to extend the moratorium on the establishment, location, operation, licensing, maintenance, or continuation of medical marijuana dispensaries, production facilities, processing facilities, collective gardens, and related businesses within the city for six months. The moratorium officially took effect on Aug. 17.
The city has adopted six moratoriums related to medical marijuana since August of 2011. There is no limit on the number of times a city can extend its moratorium. Former City Manager Derek Matheson told The Reporter in March there is a “reasonableness factor” that must be met or the city would open itself up to a legal fight.
Despite the moratorium, Covington Holistic Medicine has remained opened since 2011. Although the business is not technically grandfathered in, Matheson has said there is an understanding between the two parties.
Recreational pot update
Covington officials are also still awaiting word from the state regarding a prospective recreational marijuana business that expressed interest in June about opening a shop in Covington, in the mall south of Costco.
Richard Hart, Covington’s Community Development Director, said owners of the business expressed interest in the space and applied for a tenant improvement license on the property. However, Hart said the city won’t issue that preliminary permit until the state issues the business a license to sell recreational marijuana.
“We’ve reviewed those plans but we’re not issuing the permit until they get their license because it’s kind of a moot point otherwise,” he said.