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BEND, OR -- A county hearings officer will soon decide whether a two-story pink building at Deschutes Junction will become the first recreational marijuana store in unincorporated Deschutes County. At a public hearing earlier this week, a number of opponents voiced concerns over the building's location near the Three Sisters Adventist Christian School.


So far, it appears the distance between the proposed business and the school is within county guidelines. County Senior Planner Anthony Raguine tells KBND News, "Under our code, this type of proposed marijuana use must be at least 1,000 feet from the school, as measured from the closest point of the building to the closest point of the property line associated with the school. So, I used the county's GIS system [Geographic Information System] and estimated a distance of approximately 1,050-feet." But, he says that distance can be challenged. "The distance from the building to the school may, in fact, be a relevant criteria. For example, if the neighbors or the school wanted to hire someone to do a more accurate measurement of that distance, it could be that the GIS system is off by a certain number of feet. So, they certainly could present their evidence and testimony."


Raguine says the hearings officer's research will include more than simple  measurements. "Outside of the distance issue, I expect the hearings officer to really focus in on this idea of compatibility: is the use compatible with the school, considering its sighting, its design, its operating characteristics. These are all approval criteria that are listed in our code."


This isn't the first dust up over the property on the west side of Highway 97, near the Tumalo exit. In 2010, controversy erupted when the building was painted pink and signs went up proclaiming "Live Nude Girls." Because the signs were erected without the proper permits, the county successfully forced them to be taken down. Construction permits were never requested and the proposed "Pussycat Ranch" never materialized. 


On the recreational pot shop now proposed for the site, the hearings officer will accept written comments for the next month and then each side will be given a week to respond. A decision is expected by mid-May and there are opportunities for appeal. 

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