Gig Harbor will pause 6 months on pot sales

Gig Harbor City Council passes a six-month emergency moratorium on retail marijuana. Also, an economic manager position is approved.

Staff writerApril 16, 2014 

Although the state’s liquor control board will have a lottery for retail marijuana next week, outlets won’t be in Gig Harbor for at least six months.

In its Monday night meeting, the Gig Harbor City Council passed a six-month emergency moratorium on retail marijuana in city limits, citing state-level confusion concerning the Washington state Liquor Control Board and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

At the meeting, the council also approved an economic development manager position. Mayor Jill Guernsey said that the position will become a city administrator in January.

The retail marijuana moratorium came seemingly out of the blue; it was added to the agenda on Friday. It caught a local investor by surprise.

“I’m shocked. I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Tedd Wetherbee, owner of retail outlet The Gallery, told the council in public comment. As with emergency moratoriums, there was not a time for public comment. That hearing will take place June 6.

Council members shared their reasoning for voting on the moratorium. It was a unanimous decision.

Council member Tim Payne said, although he voted against Initiative 502, he has supported efforts to bring retail to Washington because the initiative passed.

“It was the will of the people and I respect that deeply.”

However, Payne said he feels the state’s process with retail marijuana is too murky. He sees the moratorium as a measure to prevent Gig Harbor from an influx of outlets while the state gets its act together.

City planner Lindsey Sehmel recommended the moratorium to council citing “the need for clarification for non traditional school sites.”

The “non-traditional” site in question is the Community Transition Program, or CTP, on Soundview Drive.

CTP, according to the Peninsula School District’s website, “supports young adults as they transition to life after high school in achieving the greatest degree of independence and quality of life.” It is for individuals age 18 to 21.

Wetherbee feels the council is just using the program as a weak reason to go back on its word to support retail operations.

“The worst part of it is that they’ve led you to believe the entire time for the last year... that we welcome (retail marijuana) with open arms, that we don’t want litigation,” Wetherbee said, after the meeting. “Then they come up with this.

“I don’t know why they’re trying to make it an issue, it’s not an issue.”

Wetherbee said he would be speaking to his attorneys first thing Tuesday morning about possible legal action. He says that the OSPI is the only one that can determine the school and that office has not determined that CTP is a school

The council also took action on a controversial role in the city: Economic Development Manager.

Changes were made to the ordinance, including a lower salary and a different job description. The position was approved, with council member Ken Malich casting the only dissenting vote.

Guernsey said that the role had changed from a dual position that included a deputy city administrator title to a position that dealt solely with economic development.

Guernsey also announced that she would not be renewing current City Administrator Denny Richards’ contract in 2015. Instead, the economic development position would transition into the new city administrator.

Guernsey thanked Richards for his years of service to the city. She said she has known Richards for more than 20 years. She said she learned a lot from him and knows he’s respected by the staff and citizens.

Council member Rahna Lovrovich attended the meeting via conference call. The council discussed setting a policy for the future on how and when to use conference calls.

The council’s next meeting is 5:30 p.m. April 28.

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