Prosser tightens retail pot rules

Stores banned on part of Wine Country Road

— New retail stores can open for business in the city, just not on a section of Wine Country Road.

By 5-to-1 vote, the City Council last night agreed to future marijuana stores, but not in commercial thoroughfare areas.

The decision does not impact the city’s only marijuana store, Altitude. The 260 Merlot Drive shop can continue business as usual and even expand at its current site.

“Basically, it’s anything on the northside of the Sixth Street Bridge,” City Administrator Dave Stockdale said of the off-limits area.

Businesses in that area range from Les Schwab right at the bridge to the new Love’s Truck Stop at the other end of Wine Country Road.

The section of Wine Country Road also serves as one of the city’s two entrances.

“Is this what you want on the main corridor into town?” Stockdale said of council concerns about the north stretch of Wine Country Road.

The commercial thoroughfare exemption is in addition to state laws that prohibit retail pot stores within 1,000 feet of schools and parks.

For that reason, marijuana stores won’t pop up in the city’s historic downtown area on Sixth Street. “It’s near the high school,” he said.

Councilwoman Mary Ruth Edwards cast the lone no vote, seeking instead a total ban on new pot stores.

And she’s not alone.

Last year, the School Board submitted a letter opposing new retail shops.

Mayor Randy Taylor also wrote a letter to state officials in opposition to future stores.

In the end, Stockdale said, the public provided little comment on changing existing rules allowing retail pot. And some of that comment actually favored preserving the option for more stores.

“It was a 50-50 split,” he said.

The council saw last night’s decision as a compromise between an all-out ban and the Planning Commission recommendation to stay with the city’s existing retail laws approved in 2014, Stockdale said.

The council first imposed a six-month moratorium last September.

It was in response to backers of a proposed store, The Garden, who sought to open a retail marijuana shop at 210 Chardonnay Ave.

Sponsors of that store have since changed plans and will open in Richland, Stockdale said..

Prosser is not alone in rethinking its retail marijuana rules.

Sunnyside extended its moratorium to the point that it lasted more than a year before the council finally settled on an outright ban in April 2015.

That council plans to re-open the discussion and re-evaluate the ban.

The same is true for unincorporated areas of Yakima County. After going with a ban initially, county commissioners now plan to put an advisory item on the November general election ballot to gain public input.

They have pledged to abide by the voters’ wishes on whether unincorporated areas should have retail marijuana stores.


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