Tue, Jan 26, 2021
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Willapa Harbor Herald • Town Crier
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Vader overturns marijuana ordinance in light of high application volume

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The Vader City Council has struck down an ordinance allowing marijuana in its industrial zone and is seeking more restrictive regulations intended to limit the number of recreational marijuana facilities in town.

As of Jan. 7, the State Liquor Control Board has reported four individuals are applying for a total of eight production license and two processing licenses within Vader’s industrial district, a 28.74-acre tract of under-developed land owned by Seattle developer Brandon Milton’s company, MPM.

Milton has been vocal about his intentions to establish a facility at the site, on Atlas Rd., since contacting city officials at the end of September to notify them of his objectives. Since that time, it has been reported three other individuals (Justin Wildhaber, Jeff Carr, and Samir Breko, all known to Milton) have applied for licenses as well. 

(An additional two entities, unrelated to the others, have applied for production licenses within Vader’s Urban Growth Area: EZPermanentMakeup.com LLC on the 100 block of Enchanted Valley Dr., and Stoner Farms on the 100 block of Little Pinto Ct.)

Milton and Wildhaber have each applied for three tier-3 production licenses and a processor’s license, while Carr and Breko have each applied for one tier-3 production license. A teir-3 license allows a grower to cultivate up to 30,000 square feet of marijuana, and an individual entity can be allowed up to three.

This volume of applicants has startled officials who were already uneasy about a recreational marijuana facility in town, and Mayor Ken Smith said he now believes it had been an error for the city to designate the entire industrial district for marijuana production.

“I do not believe this sort of large-scale marijuana development was either anticipated by, or is desired by, the residents of Vader,” he said during the Jan. 9 City Council meeting, publicly expressing for the first time his personal opposition to all forms of marijuana use within Vader. “I am convinced that any such benefits [from a recreational marijuana facility] would be far-outweighed by a number of serious social, economic and environmental repercussions, which would negatively impact our citizens and would eventually diminish the quality of life that our residents currently enjoy.”

Smith explained, after the council originally passed the zoning ordinance Dec. 17, he determined he could not “in good conscience” support the ordinance as it had been written and chose to veto it. During the Jan. 9 council meeting, officials were given an opportunity to respond to Smith’s veto and upheld it with the support of four out of four council members (Council Member Janet Charlton had been absent).

Smith suggested the city should look at designating a smaller area within the industrial district for marijuana production, to lessen the industry’s impact on their town, and an ordinance articulating such regulations is expected to be discussed during the Jan. 23 council meeting.

However, Milton has responded by saying efforts to restrict recreational marijuana facilities to only certain parts of his property are “ridiculous,” stating he feels the council is acting based upon their personal objections to marijuana and not in the interest of upholding his rights as a property owner and entrepreneur.

“There aren’t going to be any winners in this arrangement,” he said of current policy directions, stating he expects both the city and his company to lose money in court if Vader passes regulations that are too severe.

Milton said concerns over the volume of applicants intending to use his property are unwarranted, stating only 5.5 acres of the entire property would be used for marijuana growth if all eight production licenses were granted. He added four producers sharing the same area would also be far more beneficial than one, as he and the other three intend to collectively provide in-person security for the property on a 24/7 basis, far above and beyond what one producer could do alone, according to Milton.

He also contested arguments that a marijuana facility would negatively impact the children and families of Vader, whom have been the subject of a great deal of anti-marijuana rhetoric used by residents speaking during recent council meetings. Milton said he does not understand the basis of these arguments, stating it is not as though he intends to take children on tours of the property, or anyone outside of his company, for that matter.

“It’s going to be a secure facility,” he said, adding he would not be able to sell marijuana to residents, either, as state regulations prevent a producer from obtaining a retailer’s license.

But Milton and his co-applicants are still awaiting state approval for licenses, and Milton pointed out the regulations being contemplated by Vader will not affect whether or not the state approves his application. He has also said he does not know what his reaction will be to the city’s anticipated ordinance, stating he has not yet seen a draft, but asserted an ordinance more restrictive than the regulations passed Dec. 17 may likely result in a net loss for the community.

“I just see the lawyers getting rich,” he said.

Smith has said he expects proposed regulations to be defensible in court, if needed, stating he anticipates they will fulfill state expectations as well as honor the spirit of the legal guidance which led to the original zoning ordinance.

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