Burien theatre to use old Staples building; Lawmakers discuss placement of pot facilities

By Eric Mathison

Before Burien lawmakers moved on to the thorny issue of zoning for marijuana-related businesses on Jan. 27, they received the good news that Burien Actor’s Theater (BAT) has found a new home for its next production.

Interim City Manager Craig Knutson announced the group will use the old Staples building near Southwest 150th Street and 6th Avenue Southwest for its upcoming comedy, “Noises Off,” set to begin Feb. 21 and run through March 23.

BAT Managing Director Maggie Larrick said on Tuesday, Jan. 28 that there may still be some issues to be worked out concerning fire regulations.

Finding a suitable venue for “Noises Off” was challenging because the production requires a two-story set that rotates, according to Larrick.

City Manager Knutson also announced that the portion of the Burien Annex damaged in an arson fire will be repaired in time to house BAT’s production following“Noises Off.” The area damaged is used by BAT and the Hi-Liners.

Knutson noted the repair costs will be covered by the city’s insurance.

In 2008, the city completed a master plan that called for replacing the community center annex with a 66,000 square-foot multi-purpose recreation facility. At that time, lawmakers decided to put the plan on the back burner because of the economic downturn. Construction of the new center would likely have required voter approval of new taxes through a bond measure.

With the economy improving and questions over repairing the fire-damaged building, council members were set to revisit the master plan at their Jan. 27 study session. However, Knutson asked to have the issue removed from the agenda.

The council members, instead, tackled the controversial issue of where to allow the growing and selling of legalized marijuana in Burien.

In November 2012, Washington voters OK’d Initiative 502 legalizing recreational marijuana under strict regulations. Community development director Chip Davis told council members that 61 percent of Burien voters approved of I-502.

The previous council OK’d Aug. 19 a 6-month interim zoning ordinance.

Davis offered the same regulations for a permanent ordinance.

Under the proposed regulations, state licensed producers (growers) and processors would only be allowed in industrial or airport industrial (Northeast Redevelopment Area) zones.

Retailers would be limited to commercial zones.

However, all pot-related businesses would not be allowed within 1,000 feet of elementary or secondary schools, recreation centers, playgrounds, child care facilities, parks, public transit centers, libraries or game arcades that admit youth under 21.

On a map accompanying Davis’ presentation that left only a narrow strip between approximately South 140th Street and South 152nd Street near Des Moines Memorial Drive for growing operations. Production would have to be take place inside a structure.

The largest allowable area for retail stores would be along First Avenue South from approximately 140th Street and 148th Street, an area Councilman Gerald Robison identified as “auto dealerships and Fred Meyer.”

Smaller areas around South 112th Street and 8th Avenue South, Southwest 116th Street and Ambaum Boulevard Southwest and Southwest 160th Street and State Route 509 were also indicated.

Robison urged council members to move ahead with the regulations. He said the issue reminded him of the controversy over zoning regulations for adult businesses in Burien about 14 years ago. He said there was a lot of “fuss” but not much came of it.

Bur newly elected council members Steve Armstrong and Debi Wagner said they had concerns about security and lowering property values.

Knutson countered, “Police are concerned but not overly concerned.” He added that local police have experience dealing with the nine medical marijuana businesses in White Center.

Armstrong said the pot facilities could discourage other businesses from locating nearby.

Several residents along South 140th Street between 8th Avenue South and Des Moines Memorial Drive spoke against allowing growing operations in their neighborhood.

Knutson told lawmakers he would bring back a couple of different options at the council’s Feb. 3 meeting where the council is expected to vote on the final requirements.

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