South Whidbey’s first marijuana production facility, Now in Zen, has received a green light from the county’s hearing examiner.
In his written decision, Island Hearing Examiner Michael Bobbink approved the proposed Bayview farm’s site plan, describing it as a “small agricultural type operation” and dismissing the concerns of a vocal group of opposing neighbors.
“If it is operated in the manner described by the applicants and consistent with applicable regulations, and the conditions of approval attached hereto, little, if any, negative impact should result,” Bobbink wrote.
Business owners Adam Lind and Paul Petersen declined to comment for this story.
The decision clears the way for the business to begin the process of securing building permits. Whether the business would proceed unhindered, however, remains unclear.
Jim Hyde and Mary Jane Miller vowed last month to appeal the hearing examiner’s decision. Holding to that vow, they attempted to file paperwork this week, but learned the process had recently changed; appeals are no longer heard by the county commissioners, but by an Island County Superior Court judge.
“This is a setback,” Hyde said. “I was adamant about appealing, but this is a can of worms,” he said. “We’re back to considering what we’re going to do. We’re back to strategy again.”
The couple, who live adjacent to the farm property, said that if they proceed with an appeal they will likely need a lawyer and, perhaps, community support.
A public hearing before Bobbink in August was dominated by people who opposed the proposed farm, voicing a litany of environmental, social and cultural concerns. Similarly, a public meeting organized by Hyde and Miller at the Deer Lagoon Grange Hall earlier that same week was attended by about 40 people.
Now in Zen’s approved site plan allows for a 30,000-square-foot facility — the largest allowed under state law — on a one-acre property owned Kenneth and Kim Kramer on Country Lane off Bayview Road. The farm would include both outdoor and indoor growing areas, two greenhouses and three large shipping containers.
The entire grow is enclosed by an 8-foot-tall fence of corrugated metal and wood, which will be surrounded by landscaping of native species about half as tall.
It’s unclear how or if an appeal would slow Lind and Petersen from securing building permits as a call to Island County Planning and Community Development Monday was not returned by press time Tuesday. Also unknown is when the farm could officially open its doors if an appeal were not filed.