GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - One downtown Glenwood Springs business owner says the local medical marijuana industry is driving her out of town.
Claire Ridgley, owner and operator of the Unity Star Jewelry located in the Grand Central Station mini mall on the 700 block of Grand Avenue, said she is moving her business to Grand Junction because Glenwood Springs is not taking steps to regulate the medical marijuana dispensaries in town.
She said when she found out that another dispensary was opening in the same building as her business, that was the last straw.
"For me, it's the nail in the coffin," Ridgley said.
As of Feb. 1, Ridgley said that she is moving Unity Star Jewelry, which she recently re-named "Girl Flowers," to Grand Junction, where she will have her own space and storefront.
"It's going to be better than being in the same building with a dispensary," she said.
Ridgley started a petition in October and gathered about a dozen or so signatures of downtown business owners expressing concern to have some regulations regarding the location of dispensaries in downtown.
Ridgley said that the petition had been given to another downtown business owner who was going to take up her cause, after she moves. However, the business owner, who did not want to be quoted for this story, indicated that they were not doing anything with the petition.
But Main Street Gallery manager Nancy Page requested the Glenwood City Council consider a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in town before the situation gets out of control.
"I want to make it clear that I do not oppose them, per se. I did vote in favor to make them legal, and I have no regrets about that," Page told council last week. "However, I did not foresee them in storefront locations and that is where my concerns lie."
Page said that it was her opinion that multiple dispensaries in storefront locations within the downtown core has a negative effect on the family friendly image that Glenwood projects.
Her request, she said, is twofold: First, she would like to see council enact a moratorium of perhaps six months to review signage, zoning and land-use authority to determine if certain areas of town could be designated for dispensaries and, like liquor stores, be required to be a certain distance apart from each other and from schools and parks.
Secondly, she requested the ouncil contact the state Legislature and express the need to craft legislation regulating the industry similar to pharmacies.
Page read another written statement from TreadZ Shoestore co-owner Erin Zalinski; the message was consistent with Page's - that she would support a moratorium.
"I would like to see our council be more proactive rather than take a 'wait and see what the other communities do' attitude," Zalinski wrote.
In a telephone interview, Zalinski said that she is not against the marijuana establishments because they are legitimate businesses. She just thinks that proactively regulating the businesses now is better than waiting until it becomes a problem.
"Although I recognize the economic opportunity that these businesses offer in the short term, we have an opportunity to plan for the future with zoning regulation rather than try to accommodate what is already in place," she said.
Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association president and CEO Marianne Virgili told the council that the chamber recently surveyed 105 Glenwood business owners pertaining to general planning and zoning issues. She told council the chamber board did not feel the dispensaries were "the right retail mix" for downtown.
The survey was not scientific, Virgili said, but she said that there was a very good response to the survey.
"I've never had as much interest in a survey," Virgili said.
Mayor Bruce Christensen told Page that he had been in contact with a number of people in the Legislature regarding the issue.
"I think all of the municipalities are hoping for some guidance from the state," he said. "From what I've been finding, we're going to be getting some."
Glenwood Police Chief Terry Wilson said he is aware of four dispensaries in Glenwood that are currently open. However, he said three people have inquired with the police department about opening establishments since Dec. 30.
The Denver Post reported Friday that state lawmakers were planning to meet with the state attorney general's office to discuss a draft medical marijuana regulation bill. State Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, is crafting the legislation.