Washougal to survey residents on cannabis retailer ban, ‘safe and sane’ fireworks

City leaders say 2022 community survey results will help set city's priorities, guide budget decisions

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Washougal City Manager David Scott (center) discusses the city's 2022 community survey during a Washougal City Council workshop on Monday, April 12, 2022. (Post-Record files)

Washougal city leaders will soon send out the city’s 2022 community survey to gauge community members’ thoughts on city services, help determine city priorities and guide the city’s budget and investment decisions.

The survey, created for the city by the ETC Institute, a Kansas-based consulting firm, contains 27 questions seeking feedback about various city services and policies, including Washougal’s policy related to allowing only “safe and sane” personal fireworks and a 2012 decision to prohibit recreational cannabis retailers, producers and processors within city limits.

“This is very similar to prior surveys,” Washougal City Manager David Scott told Washougal City Council members during the Council’s Sept. 12 workshop. “I’m prepared to take this survey as it is and send it to the consultant, so that we have results in time for our community forums and open house in early November as part of the strategic planning process.”

City leaders also want to know the community’s thoughts on Washougal’s decade-old decision to prohibit recreational cannabis retailers as well as cannabis growers and processors.

Washington voters legalized the production, processing and retail sales of recreational cannabis in November 2012, but allowed cities to regulate or prohibit recreational cannabis retailers, growers and processors within their city limits.

Under the state’s rules, the cities of Washougal and Camas are each allowed one recreational cannabis retailer, but both cities have blocked those allowed retailers from opening within the cities’ jurisdictions.

Washougal’s 2022 community survey points out that “cities that allow production, processing and retail sales of cannabis receive a portion of the generated excise tax from the retail sales, which can be used for government services, including public safety,” and asks survey-takers to vote “yes” or “no” on cannabis sales, production and processing.

“We can allow one store. There’s a license for one store, pursuant to state rules, if we allow it,” Scott said. “If we allow all of the uses, then we get a portion of the excise tax from the retail sales. We can use it for any government service, including public safety. But in order to get the revenue, we have to allow them all. And just as an example, Battle Ground has a store, and in 2021, (the city) received $46,000. Now there is new legislation that might increase that number.”

Scott added that the community survey responses will not trigger Council action.

“Let’s say that the community comes back on this and overwhelmingly says ‘yes.’ That doesn’t mean the council has to change the ordinance. It’s just a data point,” Scott said. “Or, if it comes back resoundingly ‘no,’ that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t. It can’t hurt to ask the question.”

Washougal Council members voted to extend the city’s ban on recreational cannabis retailers, producers and processors in 2016.

“They were pretty overwhelming before. That’s why (I’m not sure about this),” Councilwoman Michelle Wagner said. “We heard loud and clear that they did not want this. But it’s been many years since, so that’s why it was suggested by other council members.”

The survey also asks community members to weigh in on Washougal’s “safe and sane” fireworks ordinance.

“The City Council passed an ordinance restricting the use of personal fireworks within city limits to ‘safe and sane’ fireworks (which are those that do not fly, explode, or travel more than 1 foot into the air or more than 6 feet on the ground). These restrictions have been in effect since New Year’s Eve 2018. Prior to enacting this restriction, all fireworks legal in the state of Washington were legal in Washougal, with limits on the times when they could be used. Vancouver has a complete ban on all personal fireworks. Camas allows personal fireworks that are allowed by the state of Washington, with limits on the times they can be used,” the survey states.

After this introduction, survey takers are asked to select from the following statements:

  • “I support the current restriction for safe and sane fireworks.”
  • “I would support a complete ban on the use of personal fireworks.”
  • “I would support overturning the current restriction and restoring the previous allowance of all legal personal fireworks with limits on the times they can be used.”
  • “I don’t know.”

“We’ve asked this question in the past, but it’s been a couple of years, and things are a little bit different around fireworks,” Scott said. “It’s been five years since we put in the ‘safe and sane’ restriction. There was a split Council at the time.”

Now, Scott said, city leaders want to know what the community thinks about its fireworks stance.

“(We’re asking local residents): ‘What do you think? Do you like it the way it is? Do you want to ban them completely? Or do you want to overturn it the way it was? Or do you not know?’ That’s very similar to what we asked before to test the waters on the issue, which is potentially a contentious issue,” Scott said.

The city’s most recent survey, conducted by ETC in 2020, concluded that most Washougal residents (65%) have a positive overall perception of their city but would like to see improved street maintenance and economic development efforts.