A Bellingham man has applied to open a marijuana store at this downtown Winthrop location. Photo by Laurelle Walsh

A Bellingham man has applied to open a marijuana store at this downtown Winthrop location. Photo by Laurelle Walsh

By Laurelle Walsh

A Winthrop business owner has concerns about another person’s efforts to open a marijuana store in her building.

Shannon Fharnham, owner of Mountain Paws, a pet supply store, and Fharnham Bronze, a sculpture studio and gallery, leases the storefront at 303 Riverside Ave. from building owner Kristin Devin. Devin previously ran the state liquor agency at that location.

Fharnham also rents approximately half the space downstairs on the river side of the building, with Devin’s office occupying the other half, Fharnham said.

Devin notified Fharnham around three months ago that “she had talked to a guy and he was interested in using this address for a marijuana license,” Fharnham said. “She said she wanted me to know before the rumor mill started.”

Word has definitely gotten around, said Fharnham, because she has gotten several inquiries from people wanting to know about the marijuana store, she said.

Fharnham worries that a marijuana business in her building would attract criminal activity, and said she has talked to interim town marshal Ken Bajema about increasing security on the building. “I was planning on beefing up security anyway,” she said.

“I am not affiliated [with the marijuana business] in any way,” Fharnham said. “I never met the guy.”

“The guy” is James Stroud of Bellingham, Wash., who has filed two applications for marijuana retail licenses with the state Liquor Control Board, one for an address in Bellingham and one for 303 Riverside Ave., in Winthrop.

The state application requires the address of the proposed retail shop, but does not require a signed lease — at least initially, according to marijuana licensing application instructions on the liquor board’s website.

After the application is processed, the applicant is assigned a “marijuana licensing investigator,” who verifies that the location is outside the 1,000-foot buffer zone around schools, parks, playgrounds and libraries, and notifies local authorities of its intended use.

Further into the process, the investigator requires a lease, property deed or rental agreement, as well as an operating plan and financial verification, among other requirements. The operating plan must include alarm and video surveillance systems.

Stroud said he has not heard anything from the state about his marijuana retail license applications. “I don’t even know if I will be one of those to receive a license,” especially since the state is now planning to conduct a lottery for them, he said. The time frame of the licensing process “keeps changing. I assumed licenses would be issued by now,” he said.


Hoping to live here

Stroud said he was unaware of Fharnham’s concerns. He said he had been in recent contact with Devin, and that she had reassured him there was “no danger of the current tenant being kicked out.” Devin had also suggested “another space in the building [other than the storefront] that might be appropriate,” for his business, he said.

Stroud contacted Devin last December after doing a search of properties in Winthrop that might be suitable for a marijuana store, he said. He had already talked to Winthrop planner Rocklynn Culp about potential addresses, and “got pointed to 303 Riverside as a possibility,” he said.

Devin allowed Stroud to use the address on his license application, but told him the storefront would only become available if and when the current tenant decided not to renew the lease, Devin told the News.

“Shannon’s business is doing great. She’s always going to have priority,” Devin said.

Devin confirmed that other space in the building may become available for Stroud’s business.

Stroud said he and his family lived in the Winthrop area for about six weeks in the summer of 2013 and “tried to make a go of it.” Because of difficulties securing a permanent residence, they “continued looking around” and relocated to Bellingham, where he is now a stay-at-home father of three.

He and his family moved to Washington state last summer from Washington, D.C., where Stroud had worked as an attorney in the Department of the Interior’s Indian Trust Litigation Office. Stroud said he had been attracted to the Methow Valley’s sense of community, rural atmosphere and amenities, and thought “it would be a great place to raise children,” he said.

“This time we are trying to figure out a way to stay” in the valley, he said.

If space in Devin’s building is available and the necessary licenses are issued, Stroud would like to start his marijuana store “as soon as possible,” he said.

“I don’t want people to feel like something is being thrust upon them,” Stroud said. “I don’t like conflict. I want to try to make this a nice, easy transition that folks are comfortable with.”

Stroud said he was not planning to attend the Town of Winthrop’s April 16 public hearing on a zoning change that would allow a retail marijuana outlet in the Horizon Flats area. “I would have nothing to contribute to the local conversation at a public hearing,” he said, although he would be following the outcome of the hearing.

Fharnham said she plans to attend the April 16 hearing.

“I have nothing against marijuana. I think it should be legalized everywhere,” Fharnham said. “But I don’t want him downstairs in the building without at least increased security.”

“I don’t intend to move,” Fharnham said. “I would like to stay here. This is a good location for me and what I’m trying to do.”