NEW CANNABIS REGULATIONS

Impact and Consequence to the Evolving Industry in Chelan County

On Tuesday, August 22nd, the Chelan County Board of Commissioners released Resolution No. 2017-75, entitled: “A Resolution Regarding Cannabis Activities Within Unincorporated Chelan County”. 

After almost two years of waiting, these regulations are not the resolution that the local industry was hoping for. The new regulations are extremely cumbersome, and all but ban the production or processing of cannabis in the unincorporated regions of Chelan County.

The County insists that these regulations are necessary due to cannabis’ existence as a “public nuisance” and lists its “negative impacts” as increased crime, traffic issues and unhealthy odors as reasons for the extremely restrictive nature of these regulations. Needless to say, compliance with Chelan County’s new code will be difficult for most and impossible for some.

JDSA Law is here to help. We can assist your business to regroup, and hopefully continue operations.

Here's what you need to know now: 


Zoning and Buffers 

Step 1:  Review the Resolution’s allowed zoning locations, which depend on whether your business is located indoors or outdoors. 

  • Indoor cannabis operations will be allowed in Rural Industrial, Commercial Agricultural Lands, Rural Residential/resource 20 and Rural Residential Resource 10 zones

  • Outdoor cannabis operations will be allowed only in Rural Residential/Resource 20 zone

If your business is located in one of these zones, you can proceed to step 2

Step 2:  Review the property line set-backs (called “buffers” in the regulations) to see if your property is located within allowed buffers.  If your business is located in an approved zone and can withstand the buffer requirements, your operation will only be allowed to operate if the County approves a conditional use permit.


Conditional Use Permit (CUP)  

The CUP applications can be found on the Chelan County websiteand will require all of the following:

  1. A pre-application meeting (even though the application, as it reads now, says that this meeting is optional)

  2. A vicinity map and completed Site Plan, with additional requirements as stated in the new regulations, Section 11.100.060

  3. Environmental checklist

  4. Aquifer Recharge Disclosure Form

  5. A landscape plan, parking plan, wetlands delineation, habitat management plan, geo-technical report or traffic impact study, as may be required by the Planning Department

  6. Documentation showing that the property is under the control of the license holder (lease or deed)

  7. Lighting plan – showing that the lights will not be visible from off-site residences or public roads

  8. Security plan – the licensee must be compliant with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (the “WSLCB”) security requirements and prove that the security system is functional

  9. Odor mitigation plan approved by a mechanical engineer

  10. Proof of legal and adequate water rights

  11. Waste disposal plan

  12. Fencing must be 8 feet tall or tall enough to conceal the cannabis from view, whichever is taller, and must be made out of materials that are designed for fencing purposes

  13. Proof of notice of the public hearing

  14. Proof of legal and valid access to the facility (driveway, easement, ownership)

  15. The operating plan that the licensee submitted to the WSLCB, with the addition of: (i) the number of employees, (ii) hours of operation, and (iii) on-site management contact information

  16. Notice to the adjacent landowners of the time and place of the public hearing

In addition to the above, applicants who grow indoors will need to install ventilation/air filtration systems and show the same on the site plan. 

Once the CUP application is complete, the application and filing fee are submitted to and processed with the Planning Department and a hearing will be set on the application in front of the Chelan County Hearing Examiner.  The Hearing Examiner will most likely ask questions of each applicant. 

The success of this hearing will depend heavily on the applicant’s preparation and presentation.  JDSA attorneys have been successful in representing cannabis industry clients in CUP hearings in other counties. 

If a CUP is not possible due to a buffer, the regulations set forth various circumstances in which a variance may be filed. 


Variance

 The regulations contemplate variances, allowing buffers to be reduced under certain circumstances.  Like the CUP application process, a variance is begun by filling out a Variance Application and submitting the application and fee to the County.  In addition to the application and corresponding fee, the variance application requires:

  1. Assessor’s parcel map

  2. Vicinity Map

  3. Site Plan


Compliance  

If the business’s location and operations are able to apply for and thereafter receives a CUP, the County will require the business to maintain compliance to these regulations and all other regulations of the County Code, including building permit requirements.  In order to police the industry, the County is establishing a registration and enforcement fund, requiring annual registration and accompanying fees from all cannabis operations in unincorporated Chelan County.  

As with the WSLCB compliance requirements, maintaining compliance with these County regulations will be key to staying in business.  Businesses should instruct all employees to read the Chelan County Code and provide training to employees on how to operate within the regulations, both at the State and the County level. 


Conclusion

These new Chelan County regulations are apparently retroactive, and will shut down the majority of the local industry due to the zoning and buffer requirements. 

  • If your business is located in an allowed zone and if you can meet the buffer requirements, a CUP will still be required. In addition to the normal application process, the CUP application must be accompanied by the items listed above and given in more detail in Code Section 11.100.050.

  • If your business is located in an allowed zone but cannot meet the buffer requirements, a variance application might be an option. The County may require that the variance be obtained prior to the CUP, or they may require both applications be submitted at the same time.

Given these regulations are brand-new, there will be pains in this process.  Contact the JDSA team of Cannabis Law attorneys for help.

For additional information, refer to Resolution No. 2017-75