The Sunnyside Planning Commission has decided to move forward with its recommendation to control and limit retail marijuana businesses within Sunnyside with tighter zoning restritions, despite an opinion issued by the state attorney general that may pave the way for cities to ban marijuana businesses altogether.
In mid-January, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the voter-approved initiative allowing commercial production and sales of marijuana contains no language pre-empting local laws against the sale, production or processing of marijuana.
According to local planning supervisor Jamey Ayling, that opinion may allow Sunnyside to ban such outlets within city limits. Yakima County has already decided on a ban and the city of Grandview is also moving toward a ban.
Sunnyside Planning Commission Vice Chairman Jeff Barrom asked Ayling if the attorney general’s office will help defray the costs associated with litigation if cities are sued for banning marijuana businesses. Ayling said that issue has not been addressed. Barrom then argued for making the zoning recommendations to council.
“I feel that after four meetings, we have properly vetted this,” Barrom said. “We are moving forward a motion to the city council that’s fair and reasonable to our community in regards to protecting churches, protecting schools, protecting children, but is also not allowing government to get in the way of private business where the law allows them to conduct it.”
Barrom continued by noting that banning businesses is not the role of government.
“I just feel that an outright ban goes against my personal belief of what the role of government is,” he said. “I feel that what we’ve talked about and what we agreed to previously is still a good recommendation and I would like to see us move forward with recommending that to the city council. If they choose to do something different, that’s their right.”
After Barrom moved to forward the zoning recommendations to council, the commission voted unanimously for the motion.
An environmental review process to make a determination of non-significance will take about two months, after which the city council will make its decision.
The planning commission also discussed vacant buildings in the downtown area, learning one building owner has failed to comply with the city’s ordinances. Ayling said the city will be sending him another notice soon.
The commission also discussed the city’s comprehensive plan, which needs to be completed by the end of 2015. Ayling gave an overview of how he hopes to review the plan with the commission and what parts need updating. Ayling said he hopes to have the process completed by the beginning of 2015.