Pot shops get green light in Cannon Beach

Chris Hess works at the Five Zero Trees store in Cannon Beach in October.

After months of controversy, Cannon Beach found there are no conflicts between the comprehensive plan and retail marijuana shops.

The city’s land use attorney, Bill Kabeiseman, gave a report to the City Council Tuesday, Dec. 5, that asserts having marijuana shops downtown is fully consistent with the plan, which acts as the city’s constitution for development.

A discussion about the comprehensive plan and how it relates to marijuana retailers was prompted by David Frei, the acting spokesman of the Ecola Square Homeowners Association, who for months has objected to the marijuana retailer Five Zero Trees moving in across the street at 140 S. Hemlock.

At previous City Council meetings, Frei has argued allowing Five Zero Trees so close to a residential area would be detrimental to “the unique character of downtown” and out of step with the plan’s goal to provide its residents “the quality of life that they desire.” He also claimed the crime he believes is associated with marijuana retailers would be in conflict with plan’s goal to preserve “a sense of safety.”

But according to Kabeiseman, the statement of policy in the comprehensive plan is general, and does not identify any particular uses that are prohibited. None of the identified provisions mention or discuss marijuana in any way. The ordinance that spells out where and how marijuana shops can operate does not violate the plan just because it allows for marijuana facilities to exist, he said.

“What I think would improve quality of life and what you think would improve quality of life is not necessarily going to mesh. I love seafood restaurants, but if you are allergic to seafood, your quality of life would be enhanced without them,” Kabeiseman said. “The plan says, ‘the fundamental principle of the plan is to foster a community with a strong sense of place which provides its residents the quality of life that they desire.’ The plan requires city councilors to consider what quality of life means to the city. The vote of the people is one way they can see it, and Cannon Beach voted to not prohibit marijuana facilities.”

There were other points Frei had made about the plan the attorney did not address in the memo. The fact Five Zero Trees operates multiple stores across Oregon, Frei argues, conflicts with the plan’s guideline to promote “small-scale, family-owned” businesses and the plan’s goal to “encourage the provision of permanent housing in downtown by providing zoning incentives for mixed-use structures which incorporate housing.”

Kabeiseman said in the interest of time he narrowed down some of Frei’s points in an effort to “capture the essence” of his concerns about quality of life and character.

But Frei disagrees with Kabeiseman’s interpretation. He still asserts issues with the application process that led to the eviction of three residents should be enough for the city to deny Five Zero Trees a business license.

“When (the plan) was written, they weren’t thinking of marijuana stores yet,” Frei said.

Other than a sign permit, Five Zero Trees has all the appropriate permits to operate, City Planner Mark Barnes said.

City Councilor George Vetter said because retail marijuana legalization has been voted on twice — once statewide and again locally — that the outcome of the elections should be respected as what the people want.

“This is a democracy, even if the vote was won by 13 votes, the community has decided,” Vetter said.

While city councilors reached a consensus to not move forward with any changes to the comprehensive plan, Mayor Sam Steidel said the exercise led him to believe the city should consider re-evaluating the comprehensive plan in its entirety as part of next year’s strategic planning — and to think about marijuana retailers as they do it.


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