After roughly two years of legal battles, two marijuana producers can move forward and establish their businesses in rural Deschutes County.
The Deschutes County Commission this month decided to not appeal a decision from the Oregon Court of Appeals, which affirmed a Land Use Board of Appeals ruling last month that said Deschutes County can’t stop marijuana production near “youth activity centers” because the term is too ambiguous.
The two applications were denied by the commission initially because they were too close to what the county called “youth activity centers.” One application was rejected because it was near facilities that host “youth oriented equestrian activities” and “4-H agricultural activities,” according to court documents. The other was denied because the commission believed it would be too close to Sundance Meadows Ranch.
Because the commission is not appealing this decision to the state supreme court, that means both applicants will be able to move their land use applications forward. The county’s community development department has already issued administrative approvals, said Adam Smith, an attorney with the county.
The decision to not appeal marks the end of a debate about a term that became a sticking point in multiple marijuana land use cases in Deschutes County. Commission Chair Tony DeBone said that one “could deduce” a shift of leadership on the County Commission led to the decision to not appeal. When both applications were before the commission, DeBone was the only person to vote against denying either application on the basis of the youth activity center rule.
He was outnumbered by Commissioner Patti Adair and former Commissioner Phil Henderson, who was voted out and replaced by Commissioner Phil Chang in November.
“I have no motivation to take it any farther,” DeBone said Friday.
DeBone said the original vision for the term youth activity center was to keep marijuana operations away from staffed children centers like a Boys & Girls Club, and added that he thought the term youth activity center was not being used as intended by another commissioner, though he did not say specifically who.
Chang, who also supported not appealing the decision, said he thought it was pretty clear that the county would not prevail if the cases we pursued one step further.
“It’s not prudent to waste time, staff and money when you are fairly certain something’s not going to go your way,” Chang said.
With the youth activity center debate settled, and Deschutes County residents voting to not allow future marijuana growers and producers in the county in November, Chang said he hopes the county can start a chapter and build a good working relationship with marijuana producers.
Adair said she was glad the county pursued the appeals but ultimately realized the fight was lost.
“It didn’t make sense to do it,” she said of an appeal to the state supreme court.
David Rosen — the CEO of Waveseer of Oregon, a company that seeks to build a 36,000-square-foot facility east of Bend to grow and process marijuana — was one of the two applications caught up in the litigation.
Rosen said Friday he was happy to hear the commission had a change of heart, and hopes to break ground on his facility this year.
“We’re very happy to not have a legal battle on our hands,” Rosen said.
Tommy Nehmzow, who wants to build an 1,800-square-foot indoor marijuana facility, will also be allowed to move forward.
Michael Hughes, the attorney representing Nehmzow, said he was not surprised by the commission’s decision, mostly because of the recent change in leadership with the election of Chang, a Democrat.
“It took a lot of time and a lot of battle to get where we are at, but I’m glad my client has the ability to do what he was originally approved to do,” Hughes said Friday.