The members of the Pendleton City Council threw a boomerang Tuesday, making a decision on a Riverside marijuana grow that could come right back to them in 2018.
The council held an appeal hearing for Burnswell Family Farms Tuesday as owner Brandon Krenzler took a second shot at getting conditional use approval for the pot farm. The council ultimately decided to send Krenzler’s application back to the planning commission that had previously denied him.
City Planner George Clough said Krenzler’s application was originally heard on Aug. 14 at a Pendleton Planning Commission meeting. Unlike Krenzler’s presentation for his recreational marijuana dispensary, Kind Leaf Pendleton, Clough said his presentation for Burnswell lacked detail.
“Frankly, he phoned it in,” Clough said. “It was not well done.”
Only four out of the seven planning commissioners were present for the hearing, and with some commissioners feeling like there were unanswered questions, Krenzler’s application could only muster a 2-2 vote. Burnswell was officially denied when a motion to continue the hearing to the next meeting also couldn’t get a majority, leading Krenzler to file an appeal to the city council.
Between hearings, Krenzler met with the planning department and worked to address the issues brought up by the commission. Questions over the fencing, line-of-sight and the footprint of the greenhouses used to grow the marijuana were addressed, Krenzler told the council.
But Krenzler’s adjustments weren’t enough to convince the neighbors.
Wendi Kelley, who owns a house on the property next to Burnswell, said she had initial concerns about security on the property, which were lessened when she and Krenzler spoke earlier that day. Kelley said she didn’t want to kill Krenzler’s dream, but she remained concerned about how the smell of the marijuana would affect her property value.
Kelley cited an article from the Spokane newspaper The Spokesman-Review that reported a family’s home being devalued by 10 percent after a marijuana grow opened nearby.
Michael Owens echoed Kelley’s comments and said his 401 Highway 11 business, Powerhouse Diesel Performance, could eventually be surrounded by two marijuana grows: Burnswell and GhostTown Organix at 2515 N.E. Riverside Place. Owens said he spoke with other Riverside businesses and they were similarly opposed to the grow.
“We’re making Pendleton the pothead capital of Eastern Oregon,” he said.
Krenzler said he intended to install carbon filters that would eliminate the marijuana odor by 85 to 99 percent, but he couldn’t promise there wouldn’t be some smell when high winds were blowing or the greenhouse doors were open when workers were trimming the plants.
Krenzler said other businesses like coffee roasters, diesel mechanics and breweries are generally accepted despite the odors they’re known to produce. While he wanted to be accommodating and a good neighbor, Krenzler said he could only do so much.
“I don’t want to make so many agreements that I can’t be in business,” he said.
Despite Burnswell now meeting the city’s zoning criteria, Clough recommended the council refer the issue back to the planning commission rather than approve it. Clough said he wanted to see the commission finish what it started.
Councilor Neil Brown agreed with Clough’s recommendation, saying it would give more time for Krenzler to address any additional issues and tie up loose ends with neighbors.
“Good neighbors become not-good neighbors over little issues,” Brown said. “And this is not a little issue.”
Councilor Scott Fairley preferred approving Krenzler’s application immediately since it already met the city’s conditions.
“All we’re doing is delaying it by three weeks by foisting it back on the commission,” he said.
The council voted 5-3 to send it back to the commission, with councilors Fairley, Becky Marks and Dale Primmer voting against.
Despite the decision, this might not be the last time the council discusses Burnswell’s zoning application. Regardless of the commission’s decision, if people testify for and against Burnswell, the losing side can appeal the matter back to the city council.
In an interview after the meeting, Krenzler said his project was receiving a lot of scrutiny, especially considering the commission has already approved two other marijuana grows. Despite the setback, Krenzler seemed determined to press on.
“I’m wiling to accept the challenge and I’m not dissuaded from my vision,” he said.
Whenever his next hearing is scheduled, Krenzler expects to deliver the same testimony he gave at the previous two meetings, the only addition being clarification to any questions the commission might have.
Contact Antonio Sierra at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0836.