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Reserve farmers want option to grow marijuana
Farmers in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve told planning commissioners last week that they don’t want any farming restrictions placed on them - including those involving recreational marijuana.
The draft land-use regulations, which were reviewed by the Island County Planning Commission last week, singled out Ebey’s Reserve, limiting farmers to the smallest tier of production operations, which is 2,000 square feet or less. Processing and retail were not allowed on the reserve under the draft land-use regulations.
Based on feedback from farmers, the planning commission directed staff to remove the section about Ebey’s Reserve in the second draft, which was reviewed by the commission Tuesday morning.
“My whole issue with the ordinance is the section on Ebey’s Reserve,” reserve resident Wilbur Bishop told planning commissioners last week. “I think you should remove it.”
Bishop said he didn’t think Ebey’s Reserve farmers should be held to a different standard because it sets a bad precedence. He said restrictions should be the same county wide.
“It’s going to be a bad situation down the road,” Bishop said. “I don’t want to be treated any different.”
The county issued a six-month moratorium on new recreational and medical marijuana businesses in November after the passage of Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana production and distribution. The state accepted a first round of applications for marijuana business licenses Nov. 18 to Dec. 20.
A total of 30 applications were made by potential growers, 20 applications for processing and nine applications for retail stores in Island County.
Judy Harvey, another reserve property owner, submitted several letters into the public record Tuesday, written and signed by herself and her neighbors in favor of lifting reserve restrictions.
“I do not support the county putting additional restrictions on the farmers of Ebey’s Reserve,” Judy Harvey said.
Kristen Griffin, who assumed her role as reserve manager last month, said that “opportunities to engage in the workshops didn’t occur,” and that the reserve trust board is eager to weigh in on the restriction after their regular afternoon March 25 meeting.
The results of the trust board meeting was not available by press time.
“I think it’s important that the reason this (restriction) ended up in the ordinance is a concern for a special place,” Griffin said last week. “I appreciate that.”
Dean Enell and other planning commissioners said they were open to “scrapping” the restriction on Ebey’s Reserve based on farmer comments.
“To me, the purpose of the reserve is keeping agriculture flourishing,” Enell said.
Chairwoman Val Hillers said that of the 19 farms in Ebey’s Reserve, the planning commission had received signed letters from a number of the farmers.
The planning commission is hoping to get the land-use regulations approved in time for an ordinance to be passed by the Island County Board of Commissioners by the end of the six-month moratorium, May 13.