Cannon Beach allows pot in mixed-use buildings

In a reversal, Cannon Beach will allow marijuana shops in mixed-use buildings.

Marijuana shops will now be allowed in mixed-use buildings.

In a 4-1 vote, the City Council on April 10 reversed a decision made in August that blocked marijuana retailers from moving into properties with both commercial and residential uses.

Matt Ennis, a former resident in the building that now houses Five Zero Trees, had told city councilors at a July meeting his landlord planned to evict him to rent the commercial space under him to the marijuana store. But rather than change the code, councilors argued that denying applications from pot stores seeking to operate in mixed-use buildings was a better approach

The idea to reconsider came from the fear that landlords with mixed-use properties would continue to evict tenants to allow marijuana retailers to rent their commercial spaces for a higher price.

“We didn’t contemplate a business owner evicting residents to have a pot store,” City Councilor Mike Benefield said in March. “Instead of having the city make that decision, we should let the resident decide whether or not they want to live above a pot shop.”

The City Council also decided to restrict a marijuana store from operating in “a purely residential building.” While uncommon, there are a few single-family homes in the commercial zone that could technically operate a pot store without this language.

This change is what caused City Councilor George Vetter to cast the single “no” vote. He argued prohibiting marijuana businesses from residential buildings in the commercial zone was “spot zoning” and a fruitless attempt to keep marijuana out of residential areas. Property owners could easily convert their property to be fully commercial by taking out any “cooking facilities” in the home — the standard the city uses to assess whether a property is residential or not, Vetter said.

“The problem I’m seeing is we aren’t saying you can’t have a commercial operation, but really just that you can’t have a marijuana commercial operation,” Vetter said. “We’re not accomplishing much in my opinion. It’s the same way we lost those residents downtown. If it comes to the point where someone really wants it they can turn it commercial, and now it’s mixed use and our ordinance has no effect.”

David Frei, a representative from the Ecola Square Homeowners Association, also opposed the ordinance. In written testimony, Frei asked the city to accept more public comment before making the decision.

The homeowners association, which has long opposed Five Zero Trees moving in across Hemlock Street, asserts the issue with the mixed-use aspect of the ordinance only involved Five Zero Trees, where the property owners, Bruce and Max Ritchie, did not disclose the three residences in the building when filling out the land use compatibility statement.

“The approval should not have been given, had that been known. But then that led to the evictions of the residents and the loss of three residences in affordable-challenged Cannon Beach,” Frei wrote.

The change will affect about 30 mixed-use buildings in Cannon Beach. Oregrown Inc. is lining up to be Cannon Beach’s second marijuana retailer on Hemlock Street, where the clothing store Purple Moon used to operate, but has yet to apply for a business license.

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