News Column

Christian Youth Theater to move locations for incoming marijuana shop

May 17, 2014

By Jim Camden, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.

May 17--Christian Youth Theater needs a new home soon, thanks partly to the state's new pot laws.

The theater company must move out of the Spokane Valley building that contains its offices, classrooms and rehearsal area as a recreational marijuana growing operation is making plans to move into the building next door.

State law says marijuana businesses can't be within 1,000 feet of a facility primarily used by children. CYT, which emphasizes Judeo-Christian messages in its family-targeted productions, has been on a month-to-month lease since last fall and will have to move out.

It's a move that puts the theater group in a tight spot but generates no hard feelings between the tenant and soon-to-be-former landlord.

Mountain Gear, an outdoor products retailer, owns the building being used by CYT and the one next to it that's eyed by the marijuana business. Paul Fish, the company's president and CEO, said it's a choice between a new tenant who will pay the going rate for 30,000 square feet of empty space and the existing tenant, which has received a discounted rate on about 8,000 square feet for the past seven years.

"It's a good business move for a tough situation," Fish said. "They've been a really good tenant."

Kristine Lyons, the theater group's executive artistic director, said Fish has been a great landlord who early on gutted the structure on East Mansfield Avenue and built classrooms for CYT. Now that the group is looking for new space to rent, administrators there have an even better appreciation of the rate they've been paying.

"I'm so grateful to Mr. Fish," she said. "But I understand. It's a business decision."

TrueAeroGrow LLC has applied for licenses to grow and process marijuana under the trade name Beacon in the building a short distance across the parking lot from the building occupied by CYT. TrueAeroGrow hopes to use up to 21,000 square feet of space to grow recreational marijuana and process it in the building. Fish said the space Beacon would lease has been empty for seven years, since Mountain Gear bought the old American Sign and Indicator facility and moved its corporate offices there.

The state Liquor Control Board is slowly reviewing applications and interviewing would-be pot growers. It is granting licenses at a rate of about three per week. One roadblock for Beacon's application would be having the theater offices nearby.

CYT's performances are at the Bing Theater in downtown Spokane, where it will be performing Disney's "Beauty and the Beast Jr." for two weekends starting Friday. But the East Mansfield building is where it holds theater classes, training and rehearsal sessions between its scheduled performances.

They have as many as 200 kids in a class, Lyons said. Sometimes the parking lot is full of cars from families bringing children to its events, Fish added.

State law says the property line of a recreational marijuana business must be more than 1,000 feet from the nearest property line of a school, park or recreation center. Not only are the two buildings closer than that, the marijuana businesses would be sharing a parking lot with the theater offices.

The theater group needs as much space as it had in the East Mansfield building plus about 2,500 square feet for the costumes, props and set pieces it has stored nearby. When it had to move out of its old home at Indiana Avenue and Post Street about eight years ago, Fish "was the one who stepped up," Lyons said. Now theater administrators hope someone else will.

The theater group "touches the lives of over 9,000 members of the community annually," she said, and does not want to paint itself as a victim. It's trying to view the move as a chance to expand its outreach and improve its services.


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Source: Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)

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