An update on county programs

As the summer came to an abrupt end and fall took ahold with a blink of an eye, San Juan County is hard at work with developing marijuana rules and regulations and requesting a state grant for the shoreline master program.

Marijuana moratorium

The moratorium that the county imposed on April 2 on marijuana permits expires on Oct. 2. Until then, the public can comment on the moratorium by mail to PO Box 947 Friday Harbor, WA 98250, at the Department of Community Development office at 135 Rhone St. or via email to until noon on Sept. 30. The council will hold a public hearing at 9:15 a.m. on Oct. 1, in the council hearing room.

The council can choose to let the moratorium expire or reimpose it for up to six more months.

A proposed marijuana farm on Lopez prompted action from the council in the form of a moratorium in April. Two of the three council members voted to enact a six-month pause on permitting marijuana production and processing operations in the county.

Councilman Rick Hughes opposed the moratorium, citing the effect that ceasing permitting on all marijuana production and processing operations would have on existing farms in the county. He noted during the April meeting that an Orcas farm is currently for sale and could run into permitting problems should a buyer be found and that if any of the other operations wish to expand, they’re prohibited while the moratorium is in place.

The topic of prohibiting permits to new marijuana grow operations arose from the controversy surrounding three proposed farms on Lopez. The applicant for all three permits through the state’s marijuana licensing board is Laurent Bentitou, who owns waterfront property on Lopez Sound Road and Ceres Garden in Bellevue, Washington.

The first proposed tier 3 site was on Ferry Road and is owned by Michael and Vicky Terra of Paducah, Kentucky. This application was withdrawn by the applicant. Then, the second and third requests were made for Bentitou’s waterfront property, a smaller location, but also for both a tier 3 permit as well as a tier 2.

Tier 1 allows for up to 2,000 square feet of plant production space; tier 2 is between 2,000 and 10,000 square feet; and tier 3 is for 10,000–30,000 square feet.

Shoreline Master Program periodic review

The Washington Department of Ecology requires regular review of the state’s counties’ Shoreline Master Programs every eight years. The deadline for San Juan County’s review is June 30, 2020.

With this in mind, on Sept. 16, the county council approved a request from the county department of community planning to apply for an $84,000 grant from the Department of Ecology to help fund the review. Applications for the grant are due Oct. 31.

“We’ve got to do this review, so whether we get the grant money or not, we’ve got to do the review. The grant money’s better,” County Councilmember Bill Watson said.

A perk of the grant is that if the review is completed early, the excess funds can be used for shoreline master program tasks pursuant to RCW 19.50.020.

“We did a preliminary review, there are some things that we need to fix,” Linda Kuller, planning manager and deputy director of the San Juan County Department of Community Development, said. “That money could really help get us on the way to really starting that implementation and getting that program together would be helpful.”