Deschutes

Marijuana hearing draws heated opposition

Neighbors, parents from nearby school voice concerns

By Stephen Hamway, The Bulletin, @Shamway1

Heated opposition, even tears, punctuated a permit hearing Tuesday for what could be the first retail marijuana storefront in unincorporated Deschutes County.

Hearings officer Liz Fancher, who oversaw the meeting, decided to leave the written comment period open for 30 days after the hearing, allowing concerned neighbors and parents of students at a nearby school with an additional chance to respond to the application.

At the beginning of December, Redmond resident Kelly King filed an application for a retail marijuana facility on the first floor of the building at 21280 Tumalo Place, to the north of Bend’s urban growth boundary. The hearing was to determine whether King’s request for a conditional use permit and a site plan review would be granted.

The two-story pink building is currently vacant, and is on a portion of the property zoned for rural commercial use. However, the 29-acre parcel is just north of the Three Sisters Adventist Christian School, a private Christian school owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. During the hearing, which drew about 75 people, several teachers and parents of students attending the school spoke out about a business that they claimed is antithetical to the school’s values.

The individual complaints ran the gamut, from increased noise and traffic to concerns about whether the store’s tenants would be a threat to the school’s students.

“The vast majority, I’m sure, are wonderful people,” said Brandon Ward, who works for the nearby Bend Seventh-day Adventist Church and works with students at the school. “The ones I worry about are the ones who are not.”

Becky Colvin, a concerned parent, struggled to hold back tears as she recounted the story of her two adopted sons, who she said are in her custody because of drug abuse by their biological parents.

“I do not want to drive past that place every single day taking my poor boys to school and back home again,” she said.

Neighbors also raised concerns about crime that might be associated with the proposed shop. Juline Bodnar said she moved to the neighborhood around five years ago, and had seen a decrease in crime during her time in the neighborhood.

“We’re of the opinion that allowing this type of a business would move us in the direction that we’ve been trying to move against for years,” Bodnar said.

Several neighbors also expressed their doubts that the business was at least 1,000 feet from the school.

“This is about as close as (a store) can get, and still qualify,” Fancher said.

Greg Blackmore, president of Blackmore Planning and Development, who represented King, added that he and King would provide additional clarification about several topics, including landscaping around the proposed shop. But he emphasized that the use outlined in the application was permitted under Oregon and Deschutes County law.

“That use is one that was reviewed through an extensive legislative process,” Blackmore said.

Anthony Raguine, senior planner for Deschutes County, said the decision would hinge on criteria such as the amount of bike parking available onsite, landscaping and the basic compatibility of the project within the neighborhood.

Fancher said citizens can continue to add new written comments to the official record until 5 p.m. May 5. From there, the applicant and appealing parties have until May 11 to respond to new evidence, and the applicant will have an additional week after that to submit new arguments.

—Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

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