Centralia council vote allows for new zoning of cannabis stores
July 28—Centralia City Council voted five to one Tuesday night to move forward with a rezoning proposal allowing cannabis stores to open south of downtown.
Councilor Max Vogt was the only one to vote against the measure while Councilor Elizabeth Cameron was absent.
The vote came two weeks after the proposal’s first reading when the council voted six to one to move to second reading. Since then, opponents of the proposal have sought to convince the city council to reject the rezoning.
Stanley Shkuratoff, the owner of the property where Uncle Ando’s Wurld of Weed, Centralia’s only cannabis store, said he believes the city council’s actions were unethical and represented a conflict of interest. . He said he was meeting with attorneys to consider legal action against the city. Shkuratoff expressed a sense of betrayal by the city council, with whom he believed an agreement had been worked out.
“When we started, (the property) was a mess. They said if you clean this place up, you can (build a cannabis store),” Shkuratoff said.
Shkuratoff started looking at his current property, located on Johnson Road, around 2016 or 2017. He said he spent $4 million developing the property, where dilapidated homes were to be removed, eventually opening the site in 2019 Shkuratoff thinks the rezoning would be detrimental to his investment.
At the time, very few places in Centralia were allowed to have marijuana businesses due to strict zoning.
“It would wipe us out,” Shkuratoff said of the proposal passed on Tuesday.
Shkuratoff said a representative from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board told him his property was the best location for a cannabis store. He also said Centralia School District Superintendent Lisa Grant opposed the rezoning, although Centralia Mayor Kelly Smith Johnston said Tuesday night that she had spoken with Grant and that the district’s position was neutral on the proposal.
According to Shkuratoff, the plaintiff requesting the rezoning initially talked to him about renting a site on his property for the proposed cannabis store, but was unwilling to pay rent at a level Shkuratoff found acceptable. He said the plaintiff had offered to pay $1,250 in rent. Shkuratoff was asking for at least $20,000 a month. In Shkuratoff’s opinion, $20,000 a month is a reasonable rent to charge tenants, citing his tenant, Uncle Ando’s Wurld of Weed, who he says makes up to $80,000 a month in profit while paying the requested rent.
Despite the high rent, Shkuratoff said he’s “not even close” to breaking even on his investment. He said that based on the loans he received to develop his property, it would take another 12 years to pay off his debt.
For Shkuratoff, the proposed zoning changes are the result of a city council made up of new members, who don’t have the same opinions as the councilors he worked with when he started developing his property.
“These others (new members of the city council) now they obviously don’t work for the people because they don’t work for the public. It’s all money and all business. We’ve done an extremely beautiful job , and we want the city to do well,” Shkuratoff said. “I’m not just going to let this thing happen lying around.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, supporters and opponents of rezoning expressed their views. Several board members of Centralia Christian School, located near the proposed site of a new cannabis store, sent letters asking the city not to approve the plan. Mike Hoover, a lobbyist for Uncle Ando’s Wurld of Weed, had signed up to address the board, but after letters from Centralia Christian School board members were read to the board, he chose not to. talk.
After the public finished providing feedback to the board, Smith Johnston opened the board’s discussion, stating that she would vote in favor of the proposal. The mayor said she looked at data showing cannabis use by young people has declined as part of her reasoning.
Smith Johnston also said she wanted the board to consider potential policy changes to ensure Uncle Ando’s Wurld of Weed can stay in business. Following Smith Johnston’s statement, no other council members spoke.