A proposed pot farm in Bayview received a lukewarm reception from the public at an informational community meeting this week.
About 20 people attended the meeting held at the Deer Lagoon Grange on Tuesday evening. It was organized by Now In Zen, a yet to bud marijuana grow led by Adam Lind and business partners Paul Petersen and Curtis Nelson. Still navigating the permit process — if successful, they stand to become the first legal grow operation on South Whidbey — the trio held the meeting to satisfy one of the many requirements outlined under Island County code.
Overall, the men say the meeting went well.
“We had some concerns, but it seemed like most people were supportive,” said Lind, in an interview with The Record after the meeting.
The largest issues centered on water usage and smell, though security measures and visual impacts were also concerns of those in attendance.
Lind got out of his family’s pharmacy business in 2014 to open a medical marijuana dispensary with Petersen in Freeland. Green Island was open for less than a year, however, as it was a risky time to get into the business. At the time of the opening, the state Legislature was expected to revise industry rules in the 2015 session by making medical dispensaries subject to the same rules as recreational sales stores. Lawmakers did exactly that, and though Lind and Petersen had the option of applying to become a recreational outlet they opted instead to close the dispensary altogether and become “producers” — the state’s term for growers.
“It was very short lived,” Lind said.
There are already established recreational sales stores on Whidbey, making for a competitive market place, they said. And since they were already on the small and coveted list of businesses allowed to become producers — they signed up during a short two-month window in late 2014 — it made sense to move toward the supply side of the industry.
Today, the partners are proposing a tier-3 marijuana production facility, the designation for the largest operations allowed by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, the regulatory body for marijuana sales and production. Tier 3 facilities can have up to 30,000 square feet of dedicated plant canopy.
According to documents provided by Now In Zen, which is registered with the state as THC Services, the business is planned for two acres on Country Lane Road, off Bayview Road. The property is privately owned, and Now In Zen would rent the space.
The business would have a mix of sheltered and non-sheltered growing facilities, including a 26,000-foot outdoor growing area, three greenhouses of various sizes — two are 20 feet by 60 feet, the third is 20 feet by 40 feet — and three quarantine covered structures listed as 8 feet by 20 feet.
The entire complex would be surrounded by a non-transparent 8- to 10-foot-high wall made of wood and corrugated metal; it’s required under county code. It’s also mandatory that the site be under constant video surveillance.
The majority of concerns were brought up by one woman who lives nearby. She declined to identify herself to a Record reporter. The woman seemed particularly worried about water usage and odor.
Petersen noted that the grow will use very little water, as marijuana plants need small amounts to remain healthy. Too much can actually be harmful to their health. The facility will use a rain-catchment system but also utilize water from a well.
“It will be supplemental use,” Petersen said.
Several voiced concerns about the distinct odor of marijuana plants. Some equated it to “skunks” and “skunk cabbage” and made it clear they weren’t excited about the prospect of Bayview smelling so.
“I don’t want to be around skunks,” said Langley resident Chris Williams, which earned some light-hearted chuckles through the room.
Lind said the odor will likely only be present for short periods of the year, likely around harvest and drying times in the fall in September and October. Three or four harvests may occur, but some are inside and the smell mitigated with air systems. He also noted that its offensiveness is subjective.
“I love the smell of it, but that’s just me,” he said.
Langley resident Carl Comfort said the area was traditionally cow pasture, which resulted in Lind saying he enjoyed the smells associated with that activity as well.
“I love the smell of cow poop, it reminds me of Whidbey Island,” he said.
Lind pointed out that the smell will likely be less noticeable than those produced by area coffee roasting companies, which operate year round. He also said that people have illegally grown marijuana on Whidbey Island for a long time, and that they have gone unnoticed.
Petersen added that if problems do arise, they will be a business that listens to community complaints. If problems with odor arise, they would consider making changes, such as changing strains, in an effort to be good neighbors.
“We’re not here to start a stinky problem for the community,” he said.
Many others in the room offered positive feedback. One unidentified man said he was happy to hear about the potential for additional economic development and that he thought the grow would be a good fit for Bayview. He said he doesn’t want Whidbey to become a retirement community, and that the area needs businesses that add to the tax base.
Brian Smith, a spokesman for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, confirmed THC Services’ place on its applicant list, and said there are likely only a few more steps before getting the final green light from the state. One would be a final walk-through of the facility.
The county’s permit process is less clear. Lind said they have a few more steps to navigate, such as securing a building permit for the required wall, and hopes to be complete by April or May, the start of the growing season.
Hiller West, interim director of Island County Planning and Community Development, however, said the business had barely begun to traverse the permit process. Now In Zen’s partners met with county officials last year but they have not yet submitted a formal application. Land use and building permits take up to three months to secure, which means if they want to meet a spring deadline an application would need to be submitted very soon, West said.