Stephen Hamway
The Bulletin

A proposal that would establish the first recreational marijuana store in Tumalo is headed to a public hearing.

On Monday, the Deschutes County Commission prepared for the hearing, slated for March 13, on an application that would establish an approximately 1,500-square-foot recreational marijuana dispensary along U.S. Highway 20, near Tumalo’s commercial center. If approved, the application would include the third marijuana retail storefront to be approved in Deschutes County outside of Bend, and the first in Tumalo.

Mike Hayes, who submitted the application, said the store is designed to cater to rural residents who lack access to recreational marijuana without driving to Bend.

“You look at that and you say to yourself, there’s the need right there,” Hayes said.

However, the application was appealed by neighboring property owners, who cited concerns about road access and the parcel’s proximity to Tumalo State Park, among other factors.

Hayes, who also owns the Bend-based recreational dispensary Miracle Greens, submitted an application in July for a storefront in Tumalo, along with a spot for a food cart and a space that would be used as a farmer’s market along Highway 20, near the intersection of Eighth Street and Cook Avenue. However, Hayes ultimately removed the food truck and farmer’s market concepts after a traffic analysis showed that it wouldn’t be feasible.

Dozens of recreational marijuana dispensaries within Bend’s urban growth boundary have opened since Measure 91 passed in November 2014, but that trend hasn’t spread in other parts of the county.

Matt Martin, associate planner for Deschutes County, said there are just two approved applications for marijuana retail in Deschutes County outside Bend, one on the outskirts of Sunriver and another near La Pine. Other Deschutes County cities, including Redmond and Sisters, prohibit recreational marijuana operations within city limits.

Because of that, Hayes said Deschutes County residents living outside Bend are underserved when it comes to recreational marijuana, and many residents end up relying on medical marijuana grows, some of which have come under fire locally for a perceived lack of state-level oversight. By setting up a recreational storefront that delivers to residents, Hayes said he could make a dent in the controversial medical industry.

“If you allow a retail shop to be present, it allows you … to address the medical problem going forward,” Hayes said.

Martin said Deschutes County zoning allows marijuana storefronts in only a handful of locations, mostly in the commercial districts of communities like Terrebonne and Tumalo. Hayes said he searched for a suitable property for more than a year before settling on the Tumalo parcel.

County planning staff approved the application in January, but neighboring property owners Joel and Julia Gisler appealed the application on Feb. 7. Among other issues, their objection argued that the proposed storefront is within 1,000 feet of the edge of Tumalo State Park and a Spanish-language school in the area, which would violate county code.

Hayes expressed confidence that he had done his due diligence, and that the application would be allowed to move forward. Following the hearing, a decision on the application is expected in May.

“The only reason the county would deny is based on personal feelings on cannabis,” Hayes said.

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

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