Ketchikan assembly OKs local retail pot regulations

(Creative Commons photo by Brett Levin)
(Creative Commons photo by Brett Levin)

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly adopted three ordinances Monday that put local regulations in place for any future marijuana business in the borough.

The first two ordinances passed unanimously and with little discussion. One establishes the Assembly as the local regulatory body to review any marijuana business license applications. The state is scheduled to start accepting those applications in late February.

The Assembly amended the ordinance to defer to the City of Ketchikan or Saxman, if either of those cities chooses in the future to take on those regulatory powers.

The second ordinance changes the hours of operation for marijuana businesses in the borough to mirror those of alcohol establishments.

The third ordinance, which establishes zoning regulations for marijuana businesses, sparked some discussion. Assembly Member John Harrington proposed an amendment that would have required all marijuana businesses to go through a conditional use permit, or CUP, process.

That process calls for public notice to all neighboring property owners within a certain radius, and opportunities for public comment.

Harrington added that the CUP requirement would sunset in July of 2017. He says he just wants to keep the public informed.

“I definitely don’t want that in the code forever, because somewhere along the line, we’re going to get used to this process,” he said. “But the first year, I think it’s important that we have a public process whereby the citizens have an opportunity to at least know what’s happening in their greater neighborhood.”

Other Assembly members noted that buffers established in the ordinance require a CUP for any proposed marijuana business near neighborhoods, schools, recreation centers, etc. Assembly Member Glen Thompson says requiring a CUP everywhere in the borough, even temporarily, isn’t necessary. But, he says, he would like to see public notification of proposed businesses.

Harrington’s amendment failed 3-4, with Harrington, Mike Painter and Alan Bailey voting in favor.

Thompson then proposed an amendment that would require the borough to provide legal public notice of any zoning permit application for a marijuana business within the borough. That amendment passed unanimously.

During discussion of the main motion, Assembly Member Bill Rotecki said everyone on the Assembly recognizes that this is a big change, and they’re trying to make the best decisions for the community at large.

“We know it’s new territory and it’s going to be a work in progress, and it may be a difficult one,” he said. “I’m hopeful that it will be, in the long run, a better way to do business. I don’t like the idea of supporting organized crime. I think aboveground is the way to do it. That’s why I’m supportive of legalizing marijuana.”

Harrington, however, says he is thinking about trying to put a measure on the local ballot to determine whether residents really want commercial marijuana in Ketchikan. He says new information has been provided that may have changed people’s minds.

Also Monday, the Assembly approved an ordinance that formalizes how the borough accounts for in-kind or contracted services to the Ketchikan School District.