Glenwood moves to toughen pot shop rules
New marijuana businesses in Glenwood Springs will face a special planning review to make sure the proposed location is suitable, and will have to be separated by at least 900 feet.
Those are the new rules that won initial approval Thursday night on a 6-1 vote by Glenwood Springs City Council.
Council’s action, which will be considered on second and final reading Aug. 20, would amend the city’s retail and medical marijuana codes, adding the new land-use review and revised setback provisions.
Under the new special permit process, public hearings would be held before the Glenwood Planning and Zoning Commission for recommendation, but City Council would hold the final decision.
The location permit and license to do business would be dealt with as part of the same application, city attorney Karl Hanlon explained.
The more discretionary permit process would replace the current process of having the city license hearing officer review new retail and medical marijuana establishments. Annual license renewals would still be handled by the hearing officer.
Currently, only marijuana cultivation facilities, which are limited to the city’s single industrial zone district along Devereux Road, must go through a land-use hearing process.
In addition, council agreed to increase the required setback between marijuana stores or dispensaries, cultivation and manufacturing facilities from 325 feet under the current rules to 900 feet.
That change would allow all existing marijuana businesses in Glenwood Springs to continue as is and keep the door open for new establishments in the fringes of town, but would effectively prevent any new shops in the downtown core.
ADDRESSING PUBLIC CONCERNS
That was one of the concerns expressed by the public and other downtown business owners when council decided in late May to impose a 90-day moratorium on new license applications while the regulations were reviewed.
Council looked at three options for code revisions before settling on the greater setback and combined new review process.
“I think we would be setting ourselves up for what happened the last time if we don’t combine them,” Councilman Todd Leahy said in reference to a lengthy July 2 hearing when council upheld on appeal license hearing officer Angela Roff’s rejection of two retail license applications.
That meeting dragged on until 1:30 a.m., well past council’s usual 11 p.m. curfew.
“I don’t want to have a repeat of that,” Leahy said. “This does add another layer of bureaucracy, but it gives the town what it’s looking for.”
Council opted to reject a third option that would have banned new marijuana businesses altogether within the Downtown Development Authority boundaries, and render three existing businesses in that area as non-conforming.
One of those businesses would be the Green Joint retail store and Green Medicine Wellness medical dispensary located at 11th and Grand; a prospect that owner Dan Sullivan said was “not an option.”
While existing businesses can continue even if they don’t conform to newly adopted rules, any sale of the business or major modification to the premises would not be allowed.
“We have six years of blood, sweat and tears in this business, and to then face the possibility that we would not have a business? That’s unacceptable,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also lobbied for the city to separately consider imposing an extra local sales or excise tax on recreational marijuana sales to help generate new revenues for the city. Any local tax on the marijuana trade would require a city vote at a regular election.
Council members reiterated that was not their intention in revisiting the rules to put existing businesses at risk.
“This is a really good option, and gives us discretion in what goes where while considering the needs of the neighborhood,” Councilwoman Kathryn Trauger said.
“I also like that it’s legally defensible,” she said of a concern that has been expressed about the current marijuana license application and review process.
Councilman Matt Steckler objected to including the new permit review and voted against the amended ordinance, but said he could go along with the greater setback provision.