Woodland marijuana business appeals city code violations

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A marijuana business in Woodland that has been operating without a license and against city code is making an appeal so it can continue its operations.

On Jan. 4, the city hosted an appeal hearing on a notice and order of code enforcement for 20 After 4. The business, located at 1511 N Goerig St., moved to Woodland from Kelso in May.

Woodland first implemented a moratorium on retail marijuana in 2013. Last year, 20 After 4 received approval to relocate outside of Kelso from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, but all the potential locations had some sort of retail marijuana ban, including Woodland.

On Oct. 25, the city issued the notice stating the business was in violation of city zoning code and operating without a license. Store owner John Stoehr subsequently appealed the decision, which led to the January hearing.

Hearing examiner Joe Turner left the record open for additional information and responses, in part due to technical difficulties at the hybrid in-person and virtual hearing that left Stoehr unable to testify.

Turner said language in the city code appeared to state the city would have to grant a business license if it received a license from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, even if it did not comply with city zoning. Woodland Community Development Director Travis Goddard said staff interpreted the code differently, and it did lead to valid violations.

Conversations with city staff indicated the appellant was interested in applying for a zoning code change to allow the business to operate. Should the appellant decide to apply for zoning code changes, that would be a different process than the current appeal, Turner said, as it would fall before city council to make that decision.

Turner said he planned to have a decision to the city by Feb. 16. If he agrees the use is not allowed, it would give him the opportunity to impose daily penalties. City code stipulates a $250 daily penalty for the zoning code violation and a $25 daily penalty for operating without a valid business license.

If the business continues to operate if Turner rules against it, Turner said the city would have the option for abatement of the use, which could involve getting a court order to stop the operation.

Only a handful of people testified at the hearing, mostly against the business’ continued operation. Resident Darlene Johnson said she and her husband were involved with the initial ordinance prohibiting retail marijuana within city limits.

“It was a real shock to see … a retail outlet,” Johnson said. “I think that the city council and the people of Woodland at our hearing spoke what we wanted, and hopefully that will be upheld.”

Woodland Mayor Will Finn testified remotely. He said he had received a number of complaints from other businesses in the city on the apparent double standard in license requirements.

“As a citizen who lives inside the city limits of Woodland, I find it very concerning that a business, regardless of the products or service being provided, is allowed to open without being within the code of the city,” Finn said.

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