- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Green is everywhere in the Skookumchuck Valley, from the lush pastures grazed by cattle and horses to the forested hills that surround the rural community of mostly hobby farms just outside of Tenino.

But a group of residents have joined together to battle a different type of green from sprouting up in their neighborhood: a proposed commercial marijuana farm.

“I don’t care if someone grows a few plants; I don’t even care if they smoke it,” said Phil Forbing, who lives next door to the would-be pot farm in the 6000 block of 199th Avenue Southeast. “But I don’t want a commercial business next to me in a residential area.”

So far, about 20 people have joined the effort to block the farm that’s been proposed by Olympia-based Silica Phoenix LLC.

It’s one of the first not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) cases in the state since Initiative 502, approved by voters in November 2012, ushered the way for state-licensed production, processing and retail sales of recreational marijuana.

Some governments, including Pierce County and several of its cities, have banned new recreational marijuana enterprises within their jurisdictions. The Washington State Liquor Control Board has scheduled a lottery next week to select marijuana retail licenses around the state. Meantime, officials have approved about 40 licenses for growers and processors, according to Brian Smith, spokesman for the Liquor Control Board.

“What we’re finding is that a lot of people are either slow to pay their fee, or they’re not ready yet,” he said.

According to the control board’s online database, which is updated weekly, none of the applicants in Thurston County has received a state license. A company on Skokomish Valley Road in Mason County has received a production license, and an enterprise on Valentine Avenue in Pacific in Pierce County has received licenses to grow and process marijuana.

Thurston County commissioners eased into the law by passing a one-year interim ordinance that included zoning regulations on where state-licensed pot could be grown, processed and sold. County manager Cliff Moore said it hasn’t been an easy task to implement the new law.

Officials said they’ve only approved a handful of permits for growing and processing so far.

“This is a new world order,” Moore told commissioners during a recent meeting.

Several Skookumchuck Valley residents voiced their concerns at a recent Thurston County Commission meeting, urging officials to deny a special-use permit that’s been submitted for the nearly 10-acre property. They’ve also contacted officials at the Liquor Control Board.

Resident Shelly Forest said they have numerous concerns, including the commercial look of the farm, the environmental impact of possible chemicals and groundwater pollution, potential smell of pot plants and personal safety of nearby residents. She also doesn’t like the idea of security cameras on the property, or increased traffic that a business will bring onto their street.

“It’s absurd that we should have to put up with that,” Forest said. “It should be in a light industrial area.”

Forbing said he’s worried home values will plummet in the neighborhood once the operation is up and running.

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