Marijuana grower sparks a buzz in rural Rochester neighborhood

Some folks in rural Rochester are concerned about a new recreational marijuana production warehouse under construction, but the owner insists that he’ll be a good neighbor.

Located at 173rdAvenue Southwest near Eugene Street, the Green Streak facility will measure about 20,000 square feet upon completion in about three months.

Local resident Dawn Williams, who lives about a block away, helped organize a community meeting that was held Friday evening at the Rochester Community Center. She was disappointed about the lack of notification, but also fears the agricultural enterprise will attract criminal behavior — and make the area reek of marijuana.

“This is right smack dab in the middle of a residential area,” she said. “It’s an industry. It should be in an industrial area.”

Back in 2012, Williams was among the state’s voters who approved I-502, which legalized the recreational use and production of marijuana for adults. However, with an I-502 business practically in her backyard, Williams is concerned about a potential impact to property values.

“I personally voted for it,” she said, “but not in a million years thinking that the grow operation would be in the middle of neighborhoods.”

Facility owner Richard Rollins of Spanaway submitted his application for Green Streak in April 2014. County records show the project has met requirements related to drainage and sewage on the site, a former airplane landing strip. Rollins has also been working with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding the protection of pocket gophers in the vicinity.

As for the project’s impact on the neighborhood, Rollins said the sheer number of regulations by the Washington State Liquor Control Board should set minds at ease. Marijuana cannot be sold at the premises. Likewise, the facility will be monitored by about 50 surveillance cameras and will be surrounded by a fence for security, Rollins said.

The smell of marijuana shouldn’t be a problem either, he said, noting the need to keep the facility sealed tight to prevent outside contaminants from ruining the plants.

“The liquor board is no joke,” Rollins said of the strict rules regarding marijuana production. “This is all about tax money.”

As of May 4, more than $44 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales has been generated since the first recreational retailers opened last summer, according to the liquor board. The board also reports that 28 applicants seeking to produce marijuana have a Rochester address.

In other I-502 action in the area, plans are in the works to build 10 warehouses for marijuana production on 192nd Avenue Southwest, near the junction of Interstate 5 and U.S. Highway 12 in Grand Mound.

The complex will be called The Park on 88, said Reina Windrum, an Olympia resident and partner. The project is still going through the permit process, but the goal is to build and rent the warehouses in the next nine months, she said.

One idea behind the project is to offer move-in ready facilities that make it easier for growers to start growing.

“They’re losing so much money with the opportunity cost of not being in business,” she said. “It’s not easy out there. It’s not an inexpensive proposition.”