Letters to the Editor

Market Street location should not be considered for marijuana business | Letter

Letter to the editor - Reporter file art
Letter to the editor
— image credit: Reporter file art

During the past month, the city of Kirkland and the Washington State Liquor Control Board have received multiple applications to open a marijuana dispensary at 1818 Market St. The location is a single family house currently zoned for mixed residential and commercial use surrounded on three sides by residences in the heart of the East and West of Market Neighborhoods.

While more than 60 percent of residents in the Market neighborhoods and Kirkland voted for Initiative 502 in November 2012, we believe that this specific location is problematic in regard to numerous aspects of the law and evolving regulations. We urge city leadership to engage with the WSLCB to deny an operating permit to this location or to defer approval of operating permit pending a thorough transparent review of city zoning requirements for this new type of age restricted business. These establishments will likely present different challenges to the city and local residence than opening up a bakery or shoe store at the same or similar locations would.

I-502 and the existing WSLCB regulatory guidance provide that there should be a “1,000-foot buffer zone around parks, schools and daycares for dispensary locations.” The buffer zones’ intent being that children should not be routed by such businesses and that such businesses operate in “a strictly commercial location." That standard is highly debatable for the 1818 Market Street site. While the proposed location does meet the letter of the regulation by being 1,050 feet from Juanita Park, it violates the specific intent of the regulation by being on the designated student walking route and adjacent to the city of Kirkland taxpayer financed student crossing light along Market Street for Kirkland Middle School (KMS) students. It is also just feet from the bus pick up and drop off location for Overlake and Lake Washington High Schools. As there is no busing within the Market neighborhood for KMS students, and they are encouraged by the Lake Washington School District to walk to school, we believe that this represents an extenuating circumstance that can and should be considered by the WSLCB in granting or denying the operating permit.

Additionally, the existing regulatory framework requires that proposed dispensary locations have “easy access for emergency vehicles.” The existing Market Street median prevents south bound ingress for emergency vehicles coming from the closest Kirkland Fire Station, Station No. 26, on Market Street and Forbes Creek Road. This would also appear to violate the intent of the existing rules.

We recognize that all regulatory agencies, to include the city of Kirkland and the WSLCB, are attempting to navigate difficult public policy interests involving a new industry with little to no data or existing precedent to rely on. In working to establish appropriate location standards for this type of new businesses, we believe that the question that both the city and the WSLCB need to ask in this situation is, “has the WSLCB ever approved a site similar to 1818 Market Street’s description as the location for a state run liquor store?” If the answer is “no,” then the location is not appropriate, even before applying consideration of other concerns.

We understand that there is some reticence on the part of the city’s elected and appointed leadership to address the WSLCB with the community’s concerns and opposition to this specific proposed location given the lack of any track record, positive or negative, in regard to this industry and the leadership’s belief that the WSLCB will move forward regardless. We don’t hold the city leadership to an obligation to be successful; we do, however, believe that the leadership needs to be held to their representative and official obligations to make a good faith effort in presenting our concerns with this site to the WSLCB.

Bob McKenna, Kirkland

On behalf of the East and West Market Neighborhood Associations

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