A1 Heated Storage, a self-storage facility in Sedro-Woolley, Wash., has filed a second lawsuit against the city as owner Thomas Swett seeks approval to allow customers to grow medical marijuana in designated units. The suit asks for the approval of a conditional-use permit as well as reimbursement for legal fees and business losses amassed during Swett’s first legal battle over the issue.
Swett estimates he has spent $57,000 on attorney fees during the permit fight, although he said he has not hired an attorney to handle the new lawsuit.
Swett originally applied for a conditional-use permit in December 2011 to convert several self-storage units into spaces appropriate for hydroponic gardening. The city council denied the permit, but a hearing examiner approved it on appeal. The council then overturned the examiner’s decision.
Swett subsequently sued the city for not giving him due process and failing to follow municipal law. A Skagit County Superior Court judge sent the case back to the city after ruling on Aug. 13 that the council made “procedural errors” in reversing the examiner’s approval and denied Swett due process.
The council rejected the permit again Sept. 26, voting 6-1 against the proposal. Council members argued that allowing customers to grow medical marijuana in a residential zone would attract crime and place neighboring homes and a nearby daycare center at risk. During the hearing, the council was allowed to consider only facts tied to whether or not growing medical marijuana at a self-storage facility constituted “low-intensity agriculture” and if allowing the special-use permit would be an asset to the community.
Swett believes the council rejected the permit because of bias rather than factual considerations. “You can’t just arbitrarily say you don’t like it,” he said. “So that’s why we’re going back to the judge.”
Swett filed the second lawsuit on Oct. 29. On Nov. 6, Washington-state voters approved a ballot proposition aimed at legalizing aspects of recreational marijuana use. It is unclear how the passage of Initiative 502 may affect Swett’s lawsuit.