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Permit issued for marijuana nursery

City council unanimously approved conditional use permit for business on Columbia Boulevard

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Andrew Stamp, a real estate attorney, speaks to the St. Helens City Council Wednesday, Feb. 3. Stamp represented Jennifer Plahn, a marijuana business hopeful and St. Helens resident, during an appeal hearing Wednesday night.In a unanimous vote Wednesday, Feb. 3, the St. Helens City Council approved a conditional use permit for Jennifer Plahn, a St. Helens resident, to open a marijuana plant nursery at 1771 Columbia Blvd.

Plahn initially approached the planning commission in October to seek approval for a marijuana nursery, but was denied by a 4 to 2 vote in November.

Plahn, and her legal counselor, Andrew Stamp, a real estate attorney from Lake Oswego, appealed that decision to the St. Helens City Council Wednesday night.

The planning commission denied a conditional use permit for a nursery, arguing the proposed business would more likely fall under the category of manufacturing, which is not permitted in that part of the city.

The planning commission also stated that allowing a marijuana nursery along Columbia Boulevard would not support the city’s master plan to “encourage a variety of retail shopping activities ... and enhance their attractiveness to a broad range of shoppers.”

Stamp explained that the nursery would not be involved in any chemical transformation of the product, which is the definition of manufacturing in the city code. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission requires a separate license for growers, processors and retail sellers, he said. The nursery would only be for growing.

Stamp also explained that Land Use Board of Appeals case law indicates permits can’t be denied or granted based on certain words like “encourage” that appear in the city’s master plan.

During deliberations, the City Council determined that Plahn had met the requirements for a conditional use permit in her original application. Concerns about odor control, wastewater management and use of indoor-only storage were addressed previously in a staff recommendation.

Council chair Doug Morten suggested the council approve a conditional use permit, but also go back and ask the planning commission to determine what the conditions should be. Councilors Susan Conn, Ginny Carlson and Keith Locke disagreed.

After a short discussion, the council agreed to have city staff write the permit conditions, which would include creating a wastewater management plan, monitoring and mitigating any off-site airborne impacts, such as odor, all of which were recommended by city staff in October.

An additional condition was added to maintain the landscape of the property due to its prominence on Columbia Boulevard.