Grow space "impossible" to find in Anchorage, says Realtor


Well-Known Member
Here's a solid but frustrating review of the rental market for wannabe legal growers in ANC. From yesterday's Alaska Journal of Commerce. Apparently industrial buildings are already 98% occupied, and ginormous buffers around daycares and churches complicate things further.

Landlords willing to rent to ganja growers/sellers are about to make a killing.

Anyone experiencing this?

Building space scarce for Anchorage marijuana business

DJ Summers
Alaska Journal of Commerce
Wed, 01/13/2016 - 2:18pm

The marijuana industry will have a tough time finding willing landlords for their would-be dispensaries and cultivation facilities, and the Anchorage Assembly may tighten restrictions even further.

A land crunch already plagues the Anchorage housing market, and the marijuana industry worries it will whittle storefront options as well. Anchorage is proposing three separate ordinances that would create an additional municipal licensing requirement, a sales tax plan, and a special land use requirement. The land use requirement, industry fears, will hobble the industry’s startup by narrowing already elusive leasing opportunities.

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended a final draft of the land use ordinance to the Assembly on Jan. 4. The Assembly says it hopes to have the ordinances finalized before Feb. 24, when the Marijuana Control Board will accept the first cannabis business license applications.

All Alaska cannabis businesses must follow regulations and licensing requirements the Marijuana Control Board finalized in December 2015. Ballot Measure 2, which passed in November 2014 and legalized recreational marijuana and marijuana businesses in February 2015, allows municipalities to craft their own rules, even to the point of banning aspects of marijuana businesses entirely.

Industry stakeholders say Anchorage’s proposals are an effective, if not an outright, ban on marijuana business.


“It legitimately feels as though they’re making all these ordinances specifically to make the marijuana industry fail,” said Bruce Schulte, chairman of the Marijuana Control Board and hopeful marijuana retailer. “It’s starting to look like death by a thousand cuts. Ultimately, they open themselves up to a legal challenge for making it unreasonably impracticable.”

Marijuana business attorney Jana Weltzin said she would be willing to file such a suit if the Assembly approves certain restrictions.

The municipality says it has no dark designs to choke the marijuana industry, but is only trying to regulate mindfully. Concerns over federal reprisal, the municipality says, outweigh certain allowances the state Marijuana Control Board made for smaller localities, such as a 500-foot buffer zone for schools.

“There’s no hostility to the marijuana industry,” said municipal attorney Bill Falsey. “Our aim has always been to respect the wishes of the voters while coming up with sensible regulations.”

Federal Drug Free Zone reemerges

After backlash from industry figures during a December meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission opened up more opportunities than the original draft, but also added additional restrictions for the Anchorage Assembly to vote on.

Broadly speaking, the municipality wants to group cultivation and manufacturing facilities in industrial zones, and retail businesses in B-3 zones.

The commission made some concessions to industry concerns of an earlier draft. In the new draft ordinance, marijuana bakeries will be able to maintain retail storefronts instead of being locked into industrial zones. The new draft also allows cultivation facilities in B-3 zones as long as they’re co-located with retail shops. This would allow for vertically integrated brewpub-style cannabis businesses.

However, the commission also renews the federal Drug Free Zone standard.

According to state regulations, schools, playgrounds, youth centers, religious assemblies, and correctional centers all maintain a 500-foot buffer zone from marijuana businesses. In the proposed Anchorage ordinance, schools, playgrounds, and public housing facilities require 1,000 feet from marijuana businesses, the federal standard.

The Marijuana Control Board kept a 500-foot school buffer zone in part to recognize Alaska’s unique cityscapes. Smaller towns are often too closely-knit for any retail-zoned businesses to be more than 500 feet from schools or other trigger areas. Localities in Southeast Alaska even requested a 200-foot buffer zone from the board, fearing they could zone out marijuana businesses entirely.

Falsey said the municipality still has concerns over the what’s known as the Cole Memo, which outlines the federal government’s marijuana enforcement priorities in states where it’s been legalized. Keeping it out of children’s hands is first and foremost. Falsey said the municipality believes Anchorage has enough space to be more cautious of federal scrutiny.

“We’ve taken a hard look at the separation requirements,” said Falsey. “The Cole Memo indicates that federal enforcement may actively challenge local authorities…it’s not clear to us why Anchorage would need the reduced 500 foot school buffer zone that say, Ketchikan, would need.”

Ultimately, this buffer zone concentrates marijuana businesses to a few areas. Midtown/Spenard has the most available retail marijuana-zoned space by far, with large pockets of pot-friendly zoning in South Anchorage. Industrial space is largely concentrated in South Anchorage. Downtown areas will be largely off limits unless the Assembly opens up B-2 zoning, which makes up a large share of downtown.

Commissioners say the intent is to start low and go slow. It’s easier to loosen regulations than tighten them after the industry has established itself.

“I think it is over restrictive,” said Tyler Robinson, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission. “The municipality’s policy, from what I can tell, is to be over restrictive out of the gate. Then if you need to open it up, then you open it up.”

Willing landlords

Businesses have had trouble finding space to occupy, caught between reticent landlords, zoning restrictions, and federal laws.

Commercial real estate brokers said they’ve had plenty of marijuana businesses looking for buildings, but had to turn them down. Either the available buildings violate buffer zones, or they’re financed by banks that cannot do business with the marijuana industry.

“The way they’ve made the rules, it’s impossible to go anywhere,” said Chad Graham, a commercial real estate expert working with Anchorage company Keller Williams. Graham said he control 45 percent of Anchorage’s industrial rentals, but virtually none is compliant with zoning restrictions.

“I don’t have anything for (marijuana businesses),” said Graham. “You’ve got little churches or school next to warehouses everywhere.”

According to Graham, industrial buildings in Anchorage have a 98 percent occupancy rate; retail space is looser. Much of the available space is still bank-financed; federally chartered banks refuse to deal in marijuana business, which is still illegal under federal law.

Some landlords have offered some buildings, but at triple the going rate for square footage in order to mitigate a perceived, and well-founded, risk factor. In the Lower 48, the federal government has used racketeering laws to prosecute marijuana-related businesses, including landowners and accounting services.

“The few that do open up that are lucky enough to find a spot that’s outside the buffer zones and not bank owned and has willing landlords will probably make a killing,” said Graham. “They’re going to have the whole market to themselves.”

Other commercial real estate companies and representatives in Anchorage say it’s too early in the industry’s rollout to have much experience and so have no official position but that their landlords may be reticent.

“The owners are very conservative in a lot of ways,” said Linda Boggs, an associate broker with Carr-Gottstein, one of the largest commercial real estate brokerage companies in the city. “From the nature of it, that can turn people off. We haven’t really been forced to take a position on it yet.”

Marc Dunne, an associate broker with Jack White Real Estate, said real estate companies like Carr-Gottstein are conservative enough to make renting from them a moot choice.

“There’s a lot of landlords like them,” said Dunne. “They’re patriarchs, they’re old school. Super visible. They’ll find other tenants with less brain damage associated with them.”

Alaska commercial real estate listings turned up 27 available retail spaces between 1,500 square feet and 6,000 square feet, and 19 industrial spaces between 1,500 square feet and 10,000 square feet, not taking buffer zones and bank held buildings into account.

Dunne said taking buffers and bank notes into account could whittle the number down to less than five properties for either retail or industrial space.


Well-Known Member

proposed land use ordinance would restrict marijuana businesses to certain areas. Retail would be restricted to B-3 commercial zones, in deep red on the map. Cultivation and manufacturing would confined to industrial zones, in light gray on the map. Anything within the dotted lines would violate a proposed 1,000-foot buffer zone from schools and playgrounds. Map/Courtesy/Municipality of Anchorage


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Yeah it sucks big time I'm having a hell of a time to find a space to rent to grow I. For the legal market. We should do a meet/picnic thing again soon, I didn't make the last one but it would be fun to do one.


Well-Known Member
Ha you wanna help, I have a lot on my plate already between work my kids and tending to my garden but I'm down to touch a few Alaska guys up for a meet/potluck thing wish it was summer already


Well-Known Member
From the ADN:

Using database, Anchorage real estate broker tries to find property for marijuana businesses

Devin Kelly
January 27, 2016
AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File
As Anchorage pot entrepreneurs jostle for footholds in a tight real estate market, at least one commercial real estate broker is trying to work as a middleman by finding places they could use.

Hugh Wade, who owns Spire Real Estate, has created his own database of properties suitable for a pot shop, or a warehouse for growing marijuana or manufacturing cannabis products. To keep track of fast-moving local regulations, he hired a friend — a professional land surveyor — to update maps with the latest land-use restrictions.

Marijuana business owners are confronting slim pickings when it comes to available space. Between regulatory restrictions, landlord preferences and a general scarcity of easy-to-develop land, the inventory of possible sites is limited. Local rules are still being written. A special Anchorage Assembly meeting to take up proposed land use and licensing regulations is set for Feb. 4.

That’s where Wade and his land surveyor friend, Frank McGuire, come in — the place between evolving regulations and entrepreneurs who want to be first on the market.

“It’s where democracy and capitalism meet,” McGuire said in a recent interview.

Sitting at a table in Wade’s office off Tudor Road, McGuire clicked around on a map of Anchorage, built on a computer with geographic information system technology. He selected different map layers, each with its own type of information. First, he clicked on layers showing industrial or commercial land, which popped up on a big screen connected to his computer.

Then he clicked to pull up buffer zones, based on the latest proposed city regulations: schools, public housing, playgrounds, churches, athletic fields. Red circles popped up over large swaths of Anchorage.

“So you start to see these red zones,” McGuire said, looking at the map. “We look for holes … places likely to have the least amount of conflict.”

The darker the red, the more conflicts, McGuire said. If an area looks open, it’s time to do more investigating — “ground-truthing,” he calls it.

McGuire started building the database for Wade a few years ago, prompted by what was already a scarcity of industrial land in the Anchorage Bowl. Wade wanted a system to help clients find properties that weren’t on the market but might become available in the future. McGuire used public tax assessment records to build a map of every parcel in the city.

Then, as McGuire put it, “this marijuana thing came along.” He got a call from Wade, asking if the database could be used for pot.

“We just started digging in,” said Wade, sitting at the table next to McGuire.

The pair started attending city meetings, closely monitoring for changes to regulations. If a change happened, McGuire went back and updated the map.

It’s been a fluid process so far. Several updates occurred at the Jan. 11 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, which Wade and McGuire both attended.

In one significant change, the commission took out parks as a protected land use, but approved a 1,000-foot buffer around schools, playgrounds and public housing facilities, which city officials say is consistent with federal drug-free zone guidelines. Adopting federal rules would also add a 100-foot buffer to video arcades.

The new buffer goes beyond the state requirement of a 500-foot separation distance for schools, which was set with rural Alaska in mind, said Cynthia Franklin, director of the state Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office. Other states that have legalized commercial marijuana have stuck to 1,000 feet, Franklin said. But industry members, such as Bruce Schulte of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, have criticized the Anchorage rule as excessive, arguing the land-use regulations are making it too difficult to find property in the city.

One entrepreneur, Chris Euscher, who wants to open a pot-growing and manufacturing business with her husband Rick, is among the frustrated. She said she’s been searching for a building since May with no success. Euscher has attended every meeting of city policymakers, trying to keep tabs on changes that could affect where businesses can be located.

City planners have released maps aimed at giving a general sense of protected buffer zones in Anchorage, Chugiak-Eagle River and Girdwood, based on their own geographical information technology. But in an interview earlier this month, then-city planning manager Erika McConnell said people shouldn’t make investment decisions based on those maps.

“If you’re making a decision, you have to go out and put your feet on the ground,” McConnell said.

In recent months, Wade and McGuire have been doing exactly that, trying to build up the accuracy of their database. City data isn’t perfect, McGuire said. Records can be vague on who owns or leases a building. It’s not always obvious where a playground is located.

McGuire’s sleuthing has included looking up charter schools, using federal records to find the location of public housing in Anchorage and trying to figure out what qualifies as a “community center.”

Through that process, McGuire has come up with a list of parcels that aren’t on the market but could be suitable for a marijuana business. Wade, meanwhile, has been making phone calls, asking those property owners if they would be interested in selling or leasing to a marijuana operation. He said some have been receptive. The filter question: “Are you cannabis-friendly?”

Wade said he and McGuire are just businessmen with an idea. It still takes time and investment. Wade calls it “threading the needle” with landlords in the driver's seat.

He works on a commission basis, so he has yet to see any money. It’s unclear when he will.

“Everyone in this industry is riding the fence. The rules are changing as we speak,” Wade said. “Nobody’s committing to anything, everybody’s talking to everybody, and we’re doing the same thing. There’s a million ways to spend a whole bunch of time and get no transactions.”

For now, Wade sees marijuana land-brokering as a specialty field, a niche within the industry. As long as he and McGuire stay on top of developments, he said, their database will come in handy.


Well-Known Member
I figured there would be a slow start and lots of red tape to deal with. Is anyone making progress anywhere else around Alaska besides Anchorage?
I have been keeping an eye out and seems very quiet.

Been trying to keep an eye on my town but there is absolutely nothing except a pdf version of the regs, no news updates or anything in the works. I am out of state for a little while but still have my home and large shop which is outside city limits......would love to make something happen down the line.


Well-Known Member
Holy sheet this appears to be good news- looks like the Anchorage assembly is taking steps to make things more reasonable for the cannabis entrepreneur! Wonder what happened...

Here's the quote I'm most interested in. SNIP: "Assemblyman Pete Petersen, meanwhile, voiced interest in a bigger topic: allowing “boutique” home-grow operations. He said he hadn’t drafted a formal amendment yet, but said constituents had contacted him asking how to legitimize their home-grow operations."

From yesterday's Alaska Daily News. bongsmilie

Anchorage Assembly proposals would allow pot use in retail stores, looser zoning
Devin Kelly
January 29, 2016
Print offered an amendment allowing customers at pot shops to consume marijuana products inside. The current regulations don't allow that. Flynn represents downtown Anchorage and said he might get involved personally in a cannabis enterprise, but did not explain what it was.

If on-site consumption is approved, Flynn said the Assembly would need to pass an additional measure to allow smoking on the site as an exemption from local indoor smoking laws. That area would have to be separated and ventilated, he said.

Flynn also proposed to roll back the city’s proposed 1,000-foot separation between pot businesses and schools, playgrounds and athletic fields. City officials argued that the city should abide by federal drug-free zone guidelines, but Flynn said the state’s 500-foot drug-free zone is adequate.

He also said the distance should be measured by the shortest pedestrian route rather than the shortest distance between two points.

“If we’re going to give people who wish to enter this industry a reasonable shot at being successful, we cannot be overly restrictive,” Flynn said.

Assemblyman Bill Evans of South Anchorage said he supported Flynn’s change to the separation distances, adding that land is limited in the Anchorage Bowl. Evans also introduced an alternate proposal to adopt a 500-foot standard for only Girdwood if Flynn’s Anchorage-wide proposal failed.

“The 1,000-foot requirement in Girdwood essentially eliminates the industry from any usable area in town,” Evans said. “It is an area that’s, let’s say, enthusiastic about this industry.”

In another amendment, Assemblyman Pete Petersen proposed to clarify that Anchorage police officers, in or out of uniform, should not conduct inspections of marijuana businesses. While it is not a formal aspect of the proposed licensing regulations, Petersen said he was concerned about what could happen. He said marijuana business inspections should resemble restaurant inspections.

Assemblywoman Amy Demboski, who toured the private marijuana club Pot Luck Events on Thursday, said she’s finishing a proposal to re-insert a “neighborhood responsibility plan” into the land-use regulations.

A version of the plan was removed by the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this month. Demboski’s draft proposal would encourage those seeking cannabis business permits to “make every effort to engage in neighborhood planning, ahead of the curve,” and allow the Assembly to take those efforts into consideration when evaluating a license.

Demboski also said the regulations should more clearly state that city officials can revoke a local license if the operator doesn’t comply with a conditional use permit.

Near the end of the meeting, Traini hinted that he was working on a proposal that could allow marijuana social clubs in Anchorage. Such clubs aren’t currently permitted under state regulations, though the Marijuana Control Board has asked the state Legislature to expand current laws to give the board authority to allow them, said board chair Bruce Schulte, who is also president of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association group.

Traini also said he’d like to restore a provision that had been removed that would require marijuana businesses to be at least 500 feet away from homeless shelters and rescue missions.

Petersen, meanwhile, voiced interest in a bigger topic: allowing “boutique” home-grow operations.

He said he hadn’t drafted a formal amendment yet, but said constituents had contacted him asking how to legitimize their home-grow operations.

Among industry representatives and hopeful business owners, the atmosphere after the meeting was positive. Schulte, who had argued against local regulations in recent weeks, called Friday’s meeting “really encouraging.”

“I think they’re being approached from the right perspective, with due regard for public welfare and for the success of the industry,” said Schulte.

He said he’s also softening up on the idea of a local license, which he’d criticized previously as redundant and overly burdensome. He noted the city is not planning to charge a separate fee for the local license.

Reactions were more mixed among community council members who attended. Chris Constant, president of the Fairview Community Council, said he was comfortable with all the suggestions. But Cathy Gleason, a longtime Turnagain Community Council member, said she thought the Assembly was going too far in favor of marijuana businesses.

The Assembly’s public hearing on land use and licensing regulations is set to start at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Loussac Library chambers. Read the proposed regulations and amendments on the Anchorage Assembly's page on the city website.


Well-Known Member
"Western is a management company on behalf of the individual property owners of each of the 25 building we manage and lease. Some of those properties have upwards of 10 individual owners. In some cases Western is one of those Owner’s, but generally not the “Managing Owner”. The Managing Owner of each property makes decisions on behalf of the other partnerships, is responsible to those partners for “damages” as result of his/her decisions, and instructs Western on how to manage the property to suit their collective desires. At this time, the various Managing Owners of “all” Western managed properties believe that there is an unacceptable risk to his/her minority partners should they allow an occupancy such as this, and thus risk to themselves. The risks are multiple, but the main ones come from the Lenders who hold notes on the properties, and the insurance companies that insure them, as is require by the Lender on the loan documents. Because it is still a federal offense, the insurance companies could waive or cancel the policies, and the banks could call the loans, because the building’s occupants are operating in violation of Federal Law. If a bank were to “call” a $1,000,000.00- $12,000,000.00 loan on a property because of a managing members decision to allow an occupancy they knew was illegal under federal law, they would be in large scale trouble with their partners…thus the policy.

That was the Long version. The short version is “yes” until it is legal on a Federal level, or we have guarantees from the banks and insurance companies, our Owners will not allow us to rent to that industry type.

I have begun some conversation’s with some investor groups based around the idea of purchasing some I-1 zoned property for cash, adding substantial fencing and security systems, then installing the Insulated Canopy type structures with base utilities (water, Sewer, and Electric) and overhead doors. If something was owned free and clear, and set up correctly, you’d have no bank loan issue, so then it comes down to if you can get insurance to cover risk of theft injury or damage…

I know the industry is in a tough spot right now, but there is lots up upside potential if the government get out of the way.

Hopefully this helps in your understanding of “our” situation. As for now, I would think you would need to find stand alone buildings that are owned free and clear by a single owner.

Robert A. Moats

Western Enterprises, Inc.

Associate Broker

Cell 907-632-9092

Office 907-562-2244


Well-Known Member
From e-mail

"Jack White Real Estate.
The Realtors at Jack White Real Estate can't do it because our broker would not want us to break federal law.

You would probably have to try a much smaller company."