University Place residents told city officials this week that if they can’t keep their ban on marijuana sales, they should at least prevent cannabis retailers from locating near churches.
The University Place planning commission is considering draft rules that would limit where pot retailers, producers and processors can locate within the city of 31,000. University Place has banned marijuana businesses since the state allowed them to open more than two years ago, but the council is now reconsidering that rule.
Proposed regulations would allow marijuana retailers in mixed-use zones within the city provided those shops are at least 1,000 feet from schools, playgrounds, daycare centers, gaming arcades, public parks, transit centers, recreation centers and libraries. Processors and producers would be allowed only in light industrial zones.
Stacy McClain, lead pastor of the University Place First Baptist Church, told the commission Wednesday night that list should be expanded to include churches.
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McClain said churches are often gathering places for youths attending religious instructions or participating in youth activities.
The pastor said the same logic that applies to keeping marijuana shops distant from schools, playgrounds and recreation centers — that they are frequented by children — should apply to churches.
Several others who testified during the commission session agreed with McClain’s suggestion.
Some three dozen residents testified. The majority opposed allowing marijuana sales and production in the city. They said they feared increased crime, higher law enforcement costs and the long-term effects of drugs.
Commission Chairman Frank Boykin repeatedly reminded those speaking that the commission’s charge from the City Council was not to recommend whether sales and production should be permitted, but how it should be regulated if the city drops its ban.
City attorney Steve Victor last summer recommended University Place open its doors to marijuana businesses. Several other Pierce County cities that initially outlawed marijuana sales, including Fife, Bonney Lake and Puyallup, are considering whether to drop their bans.
Victor estimated the city would raise up to $60,000 in additional tax revenue from the single retail shop the state Liquor and Cannabis Board has licensed to operate in University Place. In recent months, University Place has canceled its recreation program and taken other belt-tightening steps to overcome a million dollar budget shortfall.
The retail store, Green Tiki Cannabis Co., would be located at 7621 27th Street W., according to state records. That store could not open until the council votes to allow cannabis sales. No processors or producers have applied to locate in University Place.
A woman who identified herself as Green Tiki’s owner told planning commissioners that marijuana stores are highly regulated by the state. Sales to minors are strictly prohibited, and no loitering is allowed outside the stores. Studies have shown that marijuana shops don’t cause the crime rate to jump, she said.
The store owner declined to identify herself after the meeting. The commission’s sign-in sheet, which would have identified her, was not available from the city Thursday morning.
Others who testified said allowing marijuana sales in University Place is not worth the additional tax revenues it would generate. Allowing pot sales would change the upscale retail ambiance the city has been promoting along Bridgeport Way West, resident Jessica Cope said.
“We should not sell out our children’s bright futures for the seductive lure of tax dollars,” she said.
The commission plans to act on its final recommendations to the council at its Feb. 15 meeting.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663