Avon highly likely to allow retail marijuana businesses in the future
Both council and Planning & Zoning Commission express broad support for bringing marijuana retail to town
During a joint session of Avon’s Town Council and Planning & Zoning Commission, the council members and commissioners expressed broad support for bringing marijuana retail to the town core.
Following the statewide legalization of marijuana and recreational marijuana sales with Amendment 64 in 2012, local jurisdictions were given the ability to approve or deny retail sales within their borders. The amendment passed with 55% statewide approval, 66% Eagle County approval and 71% approval in Avon.
In 2014, when sales of recreational marijuana were allowed per the amendment, the acting Town Council enacted a moratorium on retail, testing, cultivation and manufacturing in town. At the time, the council expressed that allowing the sale of marijuana went against the image of the town.
However, on Tuesday night during a joint meeting of the current Town Council and Planning & Zoning Commission, the discussion between council members and commissioners represented a shift in perceptions about the potential impacts and benefits of retail stores in Avon.
“A lot of the fear of community impacts that everybody had back in 2014 and 2013 have not come to fruition in communities where it’s sold,” said Planning & Zoning Commissioner Jared Barnes, adding later that it was “high time we look at regulations and grow up as a community.”
In addition, many of the council members and commissioners expressed that with the moratorium in place, Avon is missing out on potential revenue. Commissioner Marty Golembiewsky said that not selling recreational marijuana was actually “lost revenue for the town.”
Plus, multiple members noted that with Avon’s close proximity to EagleVail and the “Green Mile” — where a number of recreational marijuana shops already have Avon mailing addresses — use and perception wouldn’t change for both residents and visitors.
Several of the commissioners agreed that there would be no change to consumption with the addition of a limited number of marijuana retailers in the town. Residents and visitors, they said, were simply going to EagleVail or Edwards and bringing it back to the town already. And many outsiders, Barnes pointed out, already view EagleVail as Avon already.
“Why are we missing the opportunity for revenue source for a perception already here?” he asked.
No cultivation, testing
Per state statute, there are four types of marijuana businesses: retail stores, testing facilities, cultivation facilities and manufacturing businesses. However, Avon officials expressed support for allowing retail licenses, but not cultivation, testing and manufacturing businesses.
“The cultivation and testing are probably operations that are too big and incompatible with Avon,” said Town Manager Eric Heil.
One reason given was the potential smell of these facilities. But a primary reason for many stemmed from the town’s climate action goals, with council members expressing concern that the large water and electricity needs of cultivation facilities would counteract its progress on these goals.
“We need to keep in mind that we don’t want to go against our green initiatives, not the economic green and not the pot green, but the climate green,” said Council member Amy Phillips. “We need to keep that in mind and make sure we don’t end up inadvertently having negative effects on all that we’ve accomplished with regard to our environmental initiatives.”
With support from the planning commissioners and all council members — with the exception of Scott Prince, who withheld his comments, wanting to give it further thought and requesting community feedback and Tamra Underwood, who was absent from the meeting — the town will begin the process of figuring out the details.
Ultimately, the town would need to bring a tax question to voters — approving a town-implemented marijuana tax — before it can allow any retail locations in Avon. Should council continue to move forward in this direction, the vote would likely occur in the November 2022 election.
Several council members, in addition to Prince, highlighted the importance of getting community feedback and ensuring that voter perceptions haven’t shifted since the 2012 Amendment 64 vote. This outreach, Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes noted, will need to include business owners that would be in proximity to the possible shops.
“I think we need to study a lot. It’s two-fold: one, public outreach, just to make sure our community hasn’t changed since that 71% vote. I suspect it hasn’t, not substantially,” Phillips said. “But definitely I think community outreach at the same time as we’re looking into what the rules and regulations would need to be.”
With allowing retail locations in the town, there are still a number of details to iron out. This includes determining licensing and permitting requirements, the amount of the town tax, mapping possible locations for storefronts and drafting an ordinance that outlines how it all would work.
While the discussion Tuesday was general in nature, there was one detail that all members agreed on — that only a limited amount of licenses should be allowed.
For now, the town will begin researching how other Colorado towns and municipalities have handled the businesses, with a specific look at other resort and ski communities, and start thinking more in depth about the matter.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.