Council takes up marijuana buffer, bike lanes issues

Bike lane parking enforcement and marijuana buffer reduction were front and center at last night's Kirkland City Council meeting.

Kirkland City Hall - Reporter file photo

Bike lane parking enforcement and marijuana buffer reduction were front and center at last night’s Kirkland City Council meeting.

While Mayor Amy Walen and Councilwoman Doreen Marcione were absent, the remaining five Kirkland Council members discussed possible solutions before ultimately punting any decisions until a vote by the whole council could be made.

City staff has been working on ways to make the bike lanes throughout the city safer, and presented a proposal which would levy a $45 fine against drivers who park in the marked lanes.

Staff said parking in bike lanes forces bikers to swerve into vehicle lanes to get around the parked cars causing dangerous situations.

While the council was supportive of the measure, they pushed a vote date back to Sept. 6. An educational phase-in period was also part of the proposal, where police can issue warnings and the city would let drivers know about the new regulations.

Once implemented, police would also have discretion on whether or not to ticket minor offenses.

“My biggest concern is helping them fairly understand that they’re actually parking in a bike lane,” said Councilman Toby Nixon.

Additional lane markings may also be painted throughout the city depending on the results of a public works survey.

Also discussed was possibly reducing the buffer preventing marijuana retail stores from locating within 1,000 feet of child care centers to 600 feet.

However, some councilmembers felt that the buffer could be reduced to the state-allowed 100-foot buffer.

If the buffer was reduced to 600 feet, some 24 properties in the northern half of the city would be available for the final retail marijuana business in the city to open. The city currently can host four marijuana retail businesses, three of which are operating and a fourth has a permit but not a location.

“Most of the problems are caused by marijuana prohibition and not marijuana use,” Nixon said.

Nixon also said ending the black market is a priority for the city, and creating a more robust legal market is the way to do that.

Councilwoman Shelley Kloba agreed.

“I think we have to look very carefully as to if we’re discriminating against businesses that are legal,” she said.

No action was taken at the meeting, with members voting to table the issue until all members are present at the next meeting.

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