Marijuana sales might be allowed in Fircrest as early as next year.
In a 4-3 vote Tuesday night, the City Council rejected a planning commission recommendation that the city ban all marijuana business.
The vote signaled the council’s intent to allow pot stores within the city’s 1.5 square miles.
In supporting the change, council members cited the revenue the city will get from pot sales and noted that all precincts in Fircrest voted to legalize marijuana in a statewide vote in 2012.
The council won’t take another vote to specifically allow pot sales but will decide on changes to the city’s zoning code that will restrict where businesses can go.
Once zoning is changed, businesses that qualify will be issued business licenses.
“My support has always been to have it on the main commercial and main arterial areas,” Mayor Matthew Jolibois said Thursday.
Jolibois supports marijuana businesses in the city, but is adamant they don’t operate next to residential properties.
“I think a lot of people’s concerns are they don’t want to see it in the neighborhood commercial zone,” he said. “Those are off limits because of the state requirements.”
The state requires a 1,000-foot buffer between a pot business and facilities such as schools, libraries, transit centers, day care facilities and arcades. Local governments can reduce some buffers to as little as 100 feet, but the minimum distance to schools and public playgrounds must be 1,000 feet.
Jolibois is eying the corners of the city — near Mildred and South 19th streets and Emerson Courtyard at South Orchard and Emerson streets — as preferred locations for retail stores.
Emerson Courtyard, a two-story commercial property leasing retail, restaurant and office space at 4040 Orchard St., currently is the only spot in the city where a store could go based on zoning and state buffers.
It’s unclear whether a change to zoning would allow a business in or around the Mildred Street corridor as Jolibois wants.
That’s because a transit center and day care in Tacoma and an arcade in University Place trigger the 1,000-foot buffer, said Fircrest planning and building administrator Angelie Stahlnecker.
Tacoma hasn’t reduced its buffers, which means a business looking to open in Fircrest could be restricted.
“The initial response we received from the (state) Liquor and Cannabis Board stated those buffers would still apply, even if Fircrest chose to reduce buffers,” Stahlnecker said of Tacoma and University Place.
University Place has a ban on marijuana businesses, but the city planning commission is looking at whether that should change.
Fircrest City Councilman Hunter George said he looked to marijuana businesses on the city’s border with Tacoma to gauge potential effects to the city of 6,600 people.
“You have a business that people are buying a product and leaving,” he said, noting state law prohibits using products in-store. “They’re the quietest businesses.”
Police Chief John Cheesman confirmed this Tuesday when he told the council he contacted Buckley’s police chief to see what interaction his department had with the city’s two marijuana stores.
“They haven’t had an increase in calls,” since the stores opened, Cheesman said Thursday.
And the $100,000 in revenue Buckley received from pot sales allowed the city to hire of a new police officer, Cheesman said.
George wants to do something similar in Fircrest if a marijuana store opens.
“My position is that if a store is going to come into this community, I would be proposing the city dedicate 100 percent of that revenue to another police officer,” he said.
If the city doesn’t get enough money to pay for an officer, George said, he wants the money to pay for increased emphasis patrols to reduce property crimes in the city.
That discussion, along with potential zoning changes, will be discussed at City Council study session in January.