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Forest Grove City Council leans toward moratorium on pot growing

Thursday night vote could temporarily ban indoor and outdoor operations

Forest Grove’s city council has once again stirred the pot on cannabis.

At a March 28 meeting, councilors voted 6-1 to allow industrial marijuana grow operations in designated areas within the city. At its April 11 meeting, Councilor Richard Kidd attempted to bring the previous vote back to the table for discussion and reconsideration, but a 4-3 vote showed the majority still favored allowing cannabis production.

During its meeting Monday, April 25, the council flip-flopped again — this time adding to the meeting’s agenda at the last minute an ordinance that prohibits cannabis producers from setting up shop in the city until Aug. 5 at the earliest.

A special meeting for a public hearing, second reading and final vote is scheduled for Thursday, April 28, at 7 p.m. at the Community Auditorium.

“I am supportive of business, economic enhancements to our community and free enterprise,” Kidd wrote in an email to the council and City Manager Jesse VanderZanden March 31. “But I must put the welfare, safety and health of our community residences, along with the city’s financial status ahead of any commercial operation that would jeopardize those values.”

In his email, Kidd requested city staff provide more information to the council regarding all the possible financial, health and safety risks of allowing industrially grown recreational cannabis within the city limits, as well as which other cities in Washington County currently allow such facilities.

According to the city staff report, no other city in the county allows outdoor grow operations, and Sherwood, Beaverton, and Cornelius have completely banned cannabis operations from industrial areas, including indoor grow facilities as well.

That left Forest Grove as the only local city to allow both indoor and outdoor cannabis production — until Monday, that is.

With an affirmative vote on Thursday, the council could halt three prospective cannabis grow businesses from moving into town:

¦ According to Community Development Director Jon Holan, OR Gone Green co-owners Don Roberts, and Melissa and David Eichhorn asked city staff about setting up an outdoor grow facility near the future site of Gales Creek Terrace, though they have yet to follow up on their initial inquiry.

¦ Progressive Property Management (PPM) owner Yan Polski was in talks to establish his indoor grow facility at the former Matsushita Electronics site at 4114 Heather St., but hadn’t yet moved past the site plan review stage.

“PPM is still in the middle of the local land use review process,” said Joshua Wolf, legal council for PPM. “The first step was a meeting with the local planning department and other city officials, and then following that up with a public meeting per the Development Director’s instructions. Permits covering the build-out have not yet been applied for, as we first want to ensure that the intended use passes muster locally.

“We’re still in the process of trying to finalize with the city our next steps, but basically they involve completing the land use review, obtaining a Land Use Compatibility Statement, filing for the relevant local building permits, and then moving on to submitting the state licensing application.”

¦ Furthest along in the process is the outdoor grow facility planned for Forest Grove Storage at 620 Elm St.

While the proprietors of that prospective business did not respond to News-Times requests for comment, City Senior Planner Dan Riordan said the Forest Grove Storage application had been approved with conditions and is currently in the appeal period, which is set to expire this Friday, April 29.

A council vote Thursday night to prohibit grow operations would end any bid to bring a grow business to Forest Grove through the summer.