More tweaks to zoning code requirements
Okanogan County continues to tweak its zoning regulations to make marijuana operations more compatible with residential and commercial areas and more clearly defined for growers.
The county currently has an interim zoning code that bans cannabis farms in some areas and requires a conditional-use permit in others, including the Methow Review District (from Gold Creek to Mazama).
As they work on permanent regulations, the county commissioners have asked the county’s planning commissioners to take another look at rules for lighting, noise, odor, traffic, and the density of marijuana farms and total canopy per site.
While the interim regulations now in force require outdoor lighting to be shielded, people have complained that grows in translucent greenhouses can be illuminated around the clock, lighting up the night sky, according to Okanogan County Planning Director Perry Huston.
The planning commissioners will also consider the density of operations on a single site. At present, it’s permissible for several license holders to set up operations on the same parcel, with individual grows up to 30,000 square feet. Among the controls the planning commission will consider is a maximum total canopy, said Huston.
Marijuana gives off an odor during the blooming cycle, which typically occurs in August and September for an outdoor crop. But the duration of odor has become an issue because some growers are staggering their harvest by growing plants in a greenhouse and transplanting them as soon as weather permits. That means they flower earlier, extending the blooming period — and troublesome odors — for months, said Huston.
This is the second set of interim controls adopted by the county. The controls were made stricter in July with the requirement of a conditional-use permit for indoor and outdoor grows in the Rural 1 zone (minimum lot sizes of 1 acre) and the Methow Review District. Indoor and outdoor grows are still permitted without restrictions in areas including lower-density rural, industrial, and rural-residential zones.
Permits are conditional in commercial zones. All types of cannabis businesses, including processors and retailers, are prohibited in rural residential and neighborhood use zones, which includes some parts of Mazama.
The county started looking at marijuana regulations after members of the industry said that existing land-use regulations didn’t provide enough certainty and members of the public complained about odors, lights and traffic. The county appointed a cannabis advisory committee with representatives from the industry and the general public to make recommendations to the planning commission.
The planning commission created the second set of interim controls in July, which the county commissioners adopted in August. A public hearing is required because the county commissioners adopted those controls without a hearing.
Because the county commissioners wanted more scrutiny of light, odor and canopy size as they draft permanent regulations, the planning commission will take up the issue again in September. The planning commission will make recommendations to the county commissioners. That ordinance will go through a formal environmental review and another public hearing.
The procedural hearing on the current interim controls is Monday (Sept. 17) at 2 p.m. in the commissioners’ auditorium in Okanogan. People can testify for up to three minutes at the hearing or submit comments to Laleña John at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ordinance and district use chart, which shows where cannabis farms, processors and retailers are permitted or prohibited, are available at www.okanogancounty.org/planning by clicking on the box that says “Cannabis Committee and 17A290 and 17A220 Code Amendment.” On that page, scroll down below the members of the advisory committee. The ordinance and district use chart are in the first box and can be viewed by clicking on “Ordinance 2018-012 Adopting Revisions to OCC 17A.290 and OCC 17A.220 and Repealing 2018-02.”