Benton County looks to tweak pot, hemp zoning – Albany Democrat Herald


Benton County looks to tweak pot, hemp zoning - Albany Democrat Herald

Facing complaints from neighbors about odor, traffic, water use and other issues, Benton County planners are working on a suite of possible zoning code changes that would rein in marijuana and hemp production in some parts of the county while allowing the newly legalized industries to operate freely in others.

Associate planner Inga Williams said most of the complaints have come from people living in the county’s rural residential areas, and community members were included on advisory committees that helped draft the proposed code changes.

A public workshop to provide information and gather feedback on the proposal is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Sunset Building, 4077 SW Research Way in Corvallis (see box with this story for details).

Under the current rules, the growing and processing of hemp, medical marijuana and recreational marijuana is allowed outright as a farm use in agricultural and forest conservation zones in unincorporated areas of Benton County.

That won’t change under the proposed code amendments.

But a number of changes are planned for the county’s residential and commercial zones. At present, hemp growing and processing are allowed outright, medical marijuana is not regulated and recreational weed is prohibited in the rural residential, urban residential, village residential, floodplain agriculture, and urban, rural and village commercial zones.

Under the proposed changes, recreational marijuana production would be allowed in the rural residential zone as a conditional use, which would require a staff review and notification of neighbors, but would continue to be banned in other residential and commercial zones.

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Hemp, instead of being allowed outright, would become a conditional use in rural residential while being prohibited in other commercial and residential zones. And medicinal cannabis production, which is currently unregulated in those zones, would become a conditional use in rural residential and would be banned in other residential and commercial zones.

In general, the proposals call for easing restrictions in the county’s industrial zones.

Production of hemp, recreational pot and medical cannabis would all be allowed outright at the Corvallis Airport Industrial Park and in the agricultural industrial zone. They would also be allowed by regulation in the rural industrial zone and would be allowed in urban industrial, subject to new performance standards designed to limit off-site impacts.

Finally, in the open space and public zones, there would be a total prohibition on hemp, medical marijuana and recreational weed.

The proposed zoning changes come with an important caveat: All existing production operations that would be banned by the changes would be grandfathered in as a legal nonconforming use. As proposed, those operations would have two years to get vested in those locations, Williams said.

However, Williams also noted that the code amendment process is a lengthy one and that there will be additional opportunities for public involvement before any final changes are made.

“This isn’t the end,” she said. “There will be three public hearings, so there’s plenty of time.”


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