Seattle Port Officials Oppose Big Marijuana Operations in Sodo

By Valerie Bauman, June 28, 2013, Puget Sound Business Journal

Last week the Port of Seattle urged the Seattle City Council to pass marijuana zoning laws that would keep grow operations to 10,000 square feet or smaller in the Sodo neighborhood.

The council is considering three options: 10,000, 20,000, or 50,000 square feet. The council decided not to vote on the issue, instead pushing a decision back to late July at the earliest.

Today I spoke with port spokesman Jason Kelly about why officials think a booming marijuana industry could be harmful to industrial businesses in Sodo. Here’s what he said:

Why is the Port of Seattle concerned about marijuana grow operations?

The amount of industrial lands in Seattle is already very small. So that’s a scarce resource that the port would like to preserve … Having other uses on those scarce lands will have an impact. Principally, of largest concern, is the fact that marijuana operations in that region will alter the real estate landscape. It’s a high value commodity. Grow operations, especially large grow operations, are going to impact the cost of warehousing and property values in industrial lands.

On traffic consequences:

The businesses located in Sodo are already very concerned about the level of traffic congestion in the area. Whether it’s folks trying to get up from the Kent Valley, or even commuters coming over from West Seattle, anyone who drives through Sodo recognizes how congested that area is. We’ve had several unfortunate traffic incidents there involving bikers and pedestrians in the past couple of months, including fatalities. … With these new operations and businesses it’s not clear what impact they’re going to have on the situation, but it’s likely we’re not gong to see less traffic going through Sodo if we’re going to have more businesses and employees working there.

On security risks:

What’s clear is that 50,000 square feet – something that’s the size of a football field – is beyond what a reasonable person would see as an appropriate size. That’s an enormous grow operation that would house hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars worth of product. This is an experiment here in Washington state. And no one knows what the impact is going to be of having these new legalized grow operations, or how many there will be. (They have) very unique security concerns associated with them, so the larger the grow operation, the more likely there could be security impacts. The higher the value the product, the more likely someone is going to contemplate some criminal acts. So as we start this experiment it might be wise to start slow, start smaller.

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