Aug. 21--Two entrepreneurs hoping to operate marijuana growing facilities in Walla Walla's Eastgate area put their cases before the city's hearing examiner Thursday.
The three-hour hearing drew numerous comments from both supporters and opponents of the proposed businesses, which would be sited close to each other on Isaacs Avenue east of Wilbur Avenue.
Saying that he needed time to consider material submitted during the hearings, city Hearing Examiner Leland Kerr said he would issue written decisions on requests from Kali Products LLC and Flower Curator LLC within 10 days.
Kali Products wants a conditional use permit for a marijuana growing facility inside an existing building at 2800 Isaacs Ave.
Flower Curator wants a conditional use permit to for a combined growing and processing facility nearby at 2719 Issacs Ave.
At the hearing, Kali owner John P. Kent Jr. and Flower Curator owner Greg Schnorr spoke about their business plans and measures they say they will take to ensure security and screen operations from public view, control odors from the growing plants and address other concerns they have heard from community members and others.
Proponents at the meeting said the new businesses would be a good addition to the area and, by producing legal marijuana in a tightly-controlled environment, and helping eliminate the black market for pot.
Kali's proposal was endorsed by state Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, in a letter she submitted to Kerr in advance of the meeting. She did not attend.
But at least two speakers said they felt the business backers had met the demands of state regulators and the city's development officials.
"The applicant has done their due diligence," said Ryan Armstrong concerning Kali Products.
Opponents, however, voiced views that were directly opposite to proponents, saying that allowing the businesses to open would be a detriment to the Eastgate community and degrade existing businesses surrounding the sites, particularly if odor control measures do not work.
Chris Figgins, who produces his Figgins and Toil Oregon wine brands at 2900 Melrose said in a letter an associate read at the hearing that Flower Curator's proposed site poses a "very serious business threat" to Figgins' business due to distinctive orders produced by growing marijuana.
"Winemaking requires an aroma-neutral environment to successfully produce wines of world-class quality," Figgins wrote. He said the marijuana operation would be 200 feet from his winery and in the line of prevailing winds from the southwest.
Still other speakers said spoke against marijuana use in general, expressing concerns about its effects on young people and the damage to society in general.
But Kerr said that his task was to rule only on legal issues concerning the applications and that social, moral or other matters raised by speakers would have to be addressed by other bodies.
"The decisions you're asking to be made may not be made by me," he said.
Andy Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8318.
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