During a painstaking two hour process Tuesday night, the Eagle Town Board reviewed, re-reviewed and ultimately adopted a 20-page document that will govern medical marijuana businesses in town.
But for the foreseeable future, the rules will solely affect Sweet Leaf Pioneer, the medical marijuana dispensary that is currently in operation.
Following recent action by the Colorado Legislature to set guidelines regarding the operations of medical marijuana business, the town of Eagle revamped its rules pertaining to such operations to bring them in line with state law. It's the latest chapter for medical marijuana operations in general and Sweet Leaf Pioneer in particular since the business first opened in 2010.
In a split vote back in 2010, the Eagle Town Board approved the Sweet Leaf operation. Then in February of 2011, the town board reversed that decision and voted to ban medical marijuana operations in the community. Sweet Leaf Pioneer owners Dave and Dieneka Manzanares successfully petitioned for a special election to allow their business to remain open. In January of this year, Eagle voters passed the measure.
With the ban overturned and the state's new laws in place, Eagle has spent the past few months crafting its medical marijuana business ordinance. The new rules set application, license and renewal fees for medical marijuana businesses and mandate criminal background checks for anyone owning, investing in, managing or working at such operations.
But while the ordinance lays out a whole set of rules to govern operations, it also has a provision limiting the number of medical marijuana operations in the community dependent on population. The ordinance states there can be only one medical marijuana center, one medical marijuana infused products manufacturer and one cultivation operation for an Eagle population of up to 10,000. A second center - with the three outlined operations - can be permitted if the town's population grows beyond 10,000.
Members of the town board noted they struggled with that part of the ordinance. Originally the ordinance placed a population limit of 4,000.
Trustee Joe Knabel noted the January ballot issue allowed for the Sweet Leaf Pioneer to remain open because it was already in operation. He questioned if the 4,000 population threshold was valid and a reflection of what the people who voted wanted.
"The question is, is it 4,000 or the one business that we voted on," he said.
Trustee Brandi Resa said she has also struggled with that issued. "I personally believe there should be more businesses in general," she said. But in talking to people about the medical marijuana rules, she came to the conclusion that the January vote was not an indication that people wanted more centers but rather that they wanted to protect the rights of a business that was already in operation.
Mayor Yuri Kostick voiced concern over any rules that would, in effect, created a medical marijuana business monopoly in town for Sweet Leaf Pioneer. "Are we more at risk just saying just one or basing it on population?"
"I read this (the ballot language from January) as just one," said Knabel. As a compromise, the board voted on the 10,000 population threshold and voted unanimously to approve the new ordinance. Trustees Scot Webster and Anne McGibbon were absent from the meeting and Trustee Scott Turnipseed abstained from the discussion.
A month after rolling out a $4 million plan to the Eagle County Commissioners to create a regional equestrian center at the county fairgrounds, representatives from the county presented the proposal to an enthusiastic Eagle Town Board.
Jan Miller of Eagle County Facilities, introduced the proposal noting that the commissioners had directed staff to examine ways to expand use and revenue at the fairgrounds property. After months of study, the county staff found the real-world truth of an old axiom - you have to spend money to make money.
Miller noted that before the county can attract large equine events, it needs to expand its existing facilities. While the Eagle River Center is a solid start, horse show promoters also want a warm up facility, covered horse stalls and RV hookups.
The county is now reviewing requests for proposals from architects to develop a site plan for the Eagle River Center part of the fairgrounds. They anticipate awarding the contract in the next week. At that point, a firm will develop an actual working model for how different uses could be placed on the property.
Tom Hyatt, controller for the county, noted that even with the improvements, the county fairgrounds facilities will not turn a profit. However, with increased use, the county in general and Eagle in particular would see a boon in sales tax revenues. Hyatt said a $5 million investment in the facility could generate as much as $11 million in new sales tax revenue by 2020.
"The message we made to the commissioners is the Eagle River Center is not going to make money through this. Its the hotels and restaurant around it and the spending that the attendees do that generates sales tax income," said Hyatt.
Hyatt said the financial model for horse show revenue comes from a study done by the American Quarter Horse Association in conjunction with the Fort Worth Texas Chamber of Commerce. That study indicated for every horse present at a show, there is an average of three people associated with the animal. The per diem spending per person was $150 for a total of $450 per day. Using that analysis, a 70-horse, two-day show could generate as much as $189,000 in economic impact.
"This would e a great location," added Hyatt. "The horse owner and the show operation are very excited about the location. The big winner on this, we believe, would be Eagle."
Members of the Eagle Town Board agreed.
"I don't see any downside on what your are proposing here," said Kostick. "I think we want to partner on this as much as we can."
In other action the town board:
• Heard a report regarding the Eagle Farmers Market. Gabrie Higbie of KZYR noted Friday night market was not successful this summer and cited a number of issues ranging from scheduling to weather. Town board members agreed that the Friday night timing was not optimal, noting that the market was well advertised but simply not well received. "It may be a case of what works in other communities doesn't work here," said Higbie. "Friday night doesn't work," said Turnipseed.
• Approved a Greater Outdoors Colorado grant fund request of $24,000 to improve the raft takeout facility at Chambers Park. The grant paperwork will be filed with the state next week.