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St. Helens Planning Commission OKs pot shop expansion

Conditional use permit for shop on Columbia Boulevard gets approval

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Gary Reynolds and Oscar Nelson, both of Astoria, submitted a request to use two business suites on the corner of Columbia Boulevard and 18th Street for a marijuana retail shop. The St. Helens Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for the two suites to be combined into one storefront during a meeting Tuesday, March 8.The St. Helens Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit to expand the size of a proposed marijuana retail shop on Columbia Boulevard with a unanimous vote Tuesday night, March 8.

The approved permit allows Gary Reynolds and Oscar Nelson, both Astoria residents, to establish a marijuana retail shop in the retail space located at 1807 and 1809 Columbia Blvd.

A conditional use permit was approved in August for a marijuana retail shop to be established at 1809 Columbia Blvd. However, the original applicant for the shop, Jennifer Plahn, backed out of the lease for the space in December.

Reynolds and Nelson expressed interest in expanding the shop’s floor plan by combining the suite with the office space next door, at 1807 Columbia Blvd.

Plahn, who also applied for a conditional use permit to open a marijuana plant nursery at 1771 Columbia Blvd., filed a letter with the commission in early February opposing Nelson’s plan to expand the retail shop. She cited concerns about the shop’s vicinity to Vault Elite and OPAS Dance Studio and possible business ties to a registered sex offender. The Spotlight could not confirm those ties.

Plahn’s boyfriend, Larry VanDolah, who spearheaded a protest in late August to push the St. Helens City Council to vote on allowing marijuana businesses within city limits, also spoke in opposition to Nelson’s application, citing concerns about the tenant’s plan for odor control and limited parking access.

While the planning commission initially cited concerns about parking also, Nelson presented plans to pave the parking lot behind the building to alleviate that concern. Several council members said they were satisfied with the parking plan during Tuesday’s deliberations.

Nelson has already obtained demolition permits for the site to begin expansion plans. However, the St. Helens City Council must first approve the conditional use permit.