County denies appeal over indoor marijuana grow operation
An appeal over the approval of a conditional use permit for an indoor marijuana grow operation on Grandview Drive in Rainier was unanimously denied Wednesday, Dec. 27, by Columbia County commissioners.
After hearing testimony the week prior from property owners neighboring the home where the proposed marijuana business owner lives, commissioners signaled their approval of the project, but opted to delay their vote by a week to give extra time for consideration of neighborhood impacts.
The permit for the residential grow operation was initially approved by the Columbia County Planning Commission because it met all county zoning and planning rules, but that decision was later appealed by a property owner in the same subdivision as the grow house. Appellants claimed the home-based business would conflict with the subdivision's covenants, conditions and restrictions, but commissioners learned last week that the neighborhood CC&Rs, which are not enforceable by county officials, were changed after the marijuana business was proposed without input from the business owner and applicant, William Cumby.
Commissioner Margaret Magruder, who signaled uncertainty last week, said after some thought she decided she could, and should, uphold the planning commission's decision.
"This was a difficult subject for me to deal with," Magruder said Wednesday. "As in all these issues where we are applying the law, we have to remove our own biases from it and act according to the rules."
Magruder noted she was sad to see neighbors pitted against each other, saying she hoped they could "heal their differences."
"I have concluded that I can support this application," Magruder said.
Commissioner Alex Tardif, who participated in the meeting by phone, also conveyed his support for the permit.
The week prior, Cumby, who applied for the permit to run the grow operation out of a workshop in his home, told commissioners and concerned neighbors he intended to grow the marijuana plants in an enclosed space within another enclosed space inside the home, noting he anticipated no light or odor would be detectable from other properties.
"We're gonna watch that closely," Commissioner Henry Heimuller said Wednesday, referring to the grow lights and plant odors.
"I was disappointed in the applicant thinking putting a marijuana grow in a subdivision was the right idea," Heimuller said. "I think that was pretty shortsighted."
Heimuller said he sympathized with neighbors who didn't want to smell the product, and noted the county will likely revise its marijuana land use ordinances in light of applications and feedback over the past two years since the rules and regulations were adopted in 2015.