If the small crowd of citizens expected the University Place City Council to drop a hint Monday night about whether it will approve marijuana sales, they left disappointed.
The council spent more than an hour in a study session, reviewing in detail a recommendation on rules for pot sales drafted by the city’s planning commission.
But council members didn’t show their hand about how they plan to vote on the larger question of dropping a marijuana sales ban in the city.
In September, the council charged the planning body with making recommendations about how to regulate cannabis sales if the council opened up the city for retail pot sales and production.
After several public hearings, the planning commission recommended rules that would limit any pot retail sales outlets to a small site in the city’s mixed-use zoned area.
The commission’s draft rules would ban marijuana sales within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, recreation centers, child-care facilities, public parks, public transit centers, libraries and game arcades that allow users under 21 to play.
The commission proposal further would prohibit marijuana stores within 1,000 feet of each other.
It also suggested less restrictive rules for pot producers and processors. Under the commission’s plan, production facilities would have to be 1,000 feet from schools and playgrounds, but could be as close as 100 feet from the list of other places children might frequent.
Production facilities would be closed to the public and protected by security measures.
City Councilwoman Caroline Belleci said she has visited several marijuana stores in other cities to understand how they operate. She said she was impressed with the security.
“I do feel the state has implemented some very strict rules,” she said. “They (pot stores) are more regulated than liquor stores.”
But she and other council members wanted more information about whether other cities have found that crime has increased because of pot stores.
“What’s the record for this type of operation?” Mayor Javier Figueroa asked. City officials promised to research that question and provide the council with answers at a later meeting.
Many of the council’s questions involved particulars of the planning commission’s recommendations:
Would the buffer zone from public parks include undeveloped parkland?
“That’s a gray area,” City Attorney Steve Victor said.
What if the council allowed marijuana sales and a day-care center moved to within 1,000 feet of a store? The store would be protected by “grandfather” rights.
Do church-sponsored day cares count when the buffer zones are calculated? The city used state-licensed day-care centers in drawing the exclusion zones for pot stores, city officials said.
Figueroa said the council clearly needs more answers before it acts. He said the subject of marijuana sales rules will be reviewed again at a future meeting.
Christy Stanley, who holds the sole state license to open a marijuana store in University Place if the council allows it, said she was frustrated with the time it has taken to reach a decision.
“But that’s the process,” she said. “You just have to go with it.”
University Place is one of several Pierce County cities studying whether to relax their ban on pot sales.
Tacoma, Buckley, Fife, Fircrest and unincorporated Pierce County allow sales. Lakewood, Bonney Lake and Puyallup are among cities considering changing their stance against pot sales.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663