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Cannon Beach considers adjustments to marijuana ordinance

When your neighbor is a pot shop
By Brenna Visser

The Daily Astorian

Published on March 7, 2018 11:27AM

Last changed on March 12, 2018 11:44AM

Building now home to Five Zero Trees. A new ordinance seeks to expand the uses of buildings housing cannabis shops.

R.J. Marx/Cannon Beach Gazette

Building now home to Five Zero Trees. A new ordinance seeks to expand the uses of buildings housing cannabis shops.

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City councilors are considering reversing a decision that banned marijuana retailers from operating in buildings which include residences.

The topic, discussed during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, is being continued for a vote in April.

Reevaluating the ordinance that dictates where and how marijuana can be sold in Cannon Beach came up originally after Matt Ennis, a former resident in the building that now houses Five Zero Trees, told city councilors at a July council meeting his landlord planned to evict him to rent the commercial space under him to the marijuana retailer.

In a 3-2 vote, city councilors affirmed the ordinance in August that forbids marijuana retailers from moving into mixed-use buildings. The idea to change the ordinance came from the fear that landlords with mixed use facilities would continue to evict tenants to allow marijuana retailers to rent their commercial spaces for a higher price than tenants can pay.

At the time, councilors who voted to keep the ordinance argued denying applications from weed stores seeking to operate in mixed-use buildings was a better approach.

But after the landlord evicted three residents to be in compliance with the ordinance, some city councilors began to reconsider the issue.

“We didn’t contemplate a business owner evicting residents to have a pot store,” city councilor Mike Benefield said. “Instead of having the city make that decision, we should let the resident decide whether or not they want to live above a pot shop.”

Councilor Nancy McCarthy, who originally voted to keep the ordinance, also has changed her position after seeing the “unintended consequences.”

While she supports allowing marijuana shops in mixed-use buildings, McCarthy argued Tuesday to keep a section of the ordinance that prohibits retailers from operating out of a residence. The current draft amendment would lift this prohibition that is in effect, which could unintentionally allow people with homes in the C1 zone — a zone that allows both commercial and residential use — to sell cannabis, McCarthy said.

“What I can envision is people selling marijuana out of their house. We would have no control over it because they are technically in a commercial zone,” McCarthy said.

Councilor George Vetter took issue with isolating a particular industry. He also was concerned that keeping this section of the ordinance could lead to a similar unintended consequence as the mixed-use building question, where property owners would opt to convert what otherwise would be some form of housing into a solely commercial enterprise.

“If someone paid commercial value for this property, are taking away that value?” Vetter asked. “This could end up backfiring like the original problem we were trying to solve.”

Before revisiting the issue in April, City Planner Mark Barnes and City Attorney Tammy Herdener plan to evaluate the questions raised by councilors, like a clearer definition of what constitutes a mixed-use building.

“You raised good questions. When can a building turn into a mixed-use building? We want to look at this more closely,” Herdener said. “I don’t want to go down another slippery slope.”


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