Proposed marijuana warehouse

A marijuana processor is interested in renting a warehouse on industrial land along Fifth Street in Warrenton.

WARRENTON — Local developers hope the city will conditionally allow marijuana growing and processing in all industrial zones.

Jason Palmberg, Jeff Canessa and Paul Kujala own a building complex through their company, King Fish LLC, on industrial land along Fifth Street where a marijuana processor is interested in leasing a warehouse. The complex is bounded by other industrial properties, a field and the city’s sewage lagoons across Fifth Street.

But Warrenton in 2015 restricted marijuana production, processing, wholesale, retail stores and medical dispensaries to industrial and commercial zones east of U.S. Highway 101. Such businesses must also be 1,000 feet from any public or private school, church, public park or child care center, and must be the sole occupant of a building.

Mike Morgan, a planning consultant for King Fish, has applied for an amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan that would allow marijuana production and processing conditionally in all industrial zones, rather than just those east of Highway 101. If the code change is approved, King Fish would still need a conditional use permit.

The amendment would not affect the city’s prohibition on recreational marijuana stores west of Highway 101.

Morgan argues that making marijuana growing and processing businesses conditionally allowable in all industrial zones would ultimately give the city more control over where such businesses are sited, with applications reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

The majority of available industrial land lies east of Highway 101 in Clatsop County’s North Coast Business Park, the Astoria Regional Airport and along Dolphin Avenue.

“Currently, it’s an outright use east of 101,” Morgan said of marijuana processors. “So it’s a little bit of a trade-off, because … nobody has to come to the Planning Commission currently and apply for a permit to do a processing facility if you’re in any of that industrial area behind Costco, or any of the county area, or the private land.”

The area south of the business park has become home to several new neighborhoods. Farther south, the Warrenton-Hammond School District has begun construction on a new master campus.

“All of those fourplexes, apartment houses east of Costco, you can have a marijuana facility within 1,000 feet of an apartment complex currently,” Morgan said. “So if it’s in the industrial zone, it could be right next to a residential area.”

King Fish’s warehouse along Fifth Street is far away from homes, schools, churches, parks and other properties likely to create community opposition, Morgan said.

“There are no types of those uses within 1,000 feet,” he said.

A change to the development code would also affect industrial lands west of Highway 101. A large swath of industrial land encompasses properties along Fifth Street, the city’s sewage lagoons and a triangular plot of land knifing north between the city’s Lagoon and Waterfront trails. A smaller band of industrial land runs along state Highway 104 east of the Skipanon River.

Scott Hess, the city’s new planning director, said King Fish’s proposal will come before the Planning Commission on Dec. 10.

Paul Mitchell, the chairman of the Planning Commission, helped create the zoning ordinance that restricted marijuana businesses to east of Highway 101. He declined to comment on King Fish’s application until it comes before the commission.

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

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