Grand County puts off Highland Lumber rezoning decision

Hank Shell
Byron Hetzler / Sky-Hi Daily News
Byron Hetzler/ | Sky-Hi News

The Grand County commissioners decided to table a proposal to rezone the former Highland Lumber building on U.S. Highway 40 in Tabernash, which might become a medical-marijuana grow facility.

Wells Fargo Bank took ownership of the 11-acre parcel and building after foreclosing on the owner.

Realtor Lance Gutersohn, who represented Wells Fargo, is seeking to rezone the land from tourist to business.

The property is already under contract with a potential buyer who intends to turn the facility into a medical marijuana grow operation, Gutersohn said. Whether the buyer closes on the contract is contingent on rezoning, county and state licensure, and other factors.

But during the July 15 meeting, dialogue focused on the building’s potential future use rather than rezoning the property.

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Ron Jones, owner of Miller Storage, which adjoins the Highland Lumber property, expressed concerns about the county’s marijuana regulations.

“I’m concerned about the uses that are allowed within the business zone,” said Jones. “And I realize that medical marijuana grow facilities are one of those uses and I’m not here to speak about medical marijuana grow facilities as a pro or a con, but I’m concerned about the regulations that we have in place.”

Jones argued that, because the rezoning would allow the potential use of the of a medical marijuana facility, it was germane to the discussion.

“Believe me, I have done enough networking,” Jones said. “There’s a huge concern in the community about marijuana grow facilities as it relates to odor, as it relates to lighting and as it relates to noise.”

The adjacent property is already zoned business, and both the Grand County Planning and Zoning Department and the Grand County Planning Commission recommended that the county commissioners grant the rezoning request.

“We believe that it complies with all of the requirements within our rezoning request,” said Kristen Manguso, Grand County planning director.

But Jones said the putative use of the property warranted consideration in the zoning hearing.

“This particular property is located very close to a number of residential uses. And even though there is business use next door and that I very well may give business use to my property next door, we as a community need to be concerned about the impact this will have,” Jones said.

Jones said that the county should take an extra week to consider requiring a special use permit for the property.

“The special use permit does not create any undue burden on an applicant for this type of facility,” Jones said. “We all live up here. To the best of my knowledge, nobody who’s applying for these grow facilities lives up here. They’re not invested in the community so therefore shouldn’t we take our time? Shouldn’t we have local control over this use?”

However, resident David Michel didn’t agree with Jones’s view.

“I think that sometimes people speak from a position of ignorance because they don’t know regulations that are already imposed by both the state and the county,” Michel said. “Ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds conjecture as to all sorts of horribles that may occur but likely will not occur.”

Michel asked that commissioners grant the rezoning request.

Gutersohn reiterated that he didn’t believe the discussion regarding marijuana was pertinent to the issue at hand.

“If in fact this marijuana thing does shut down, it’s all the more reason for us to have that business zoning, so that if for some reason there’s somebody that wants to bring a business to Grand County and buy that property, then they’ll be able to do that,” Gutersohn said. “The marijuana thing doesn’t have anything to do with our request here. We’re looking for business zoning for this building.”

Commissioner James Newberry asked if all uses would be grandfathered in under the zoning change. County Attorney Jack DiCola advised that the county could take the issue under advisement with notice and could declare a moratorium with regard to zoning code matters.

“However, I believe that the current regulations, both under the business district zone and our marijuana licensing, will cover anything that you want to cover,” DiCola said. “There are a number of uses in the business zone from warehouse facilities to nurseries to commercial greenhouses, eating and drinking establishments, construction businesses — a lot of issues here — but none of those have impacts outside of the zone.”

Commissioners were unable to reach an understanding on how to proceed. They will revisit the matter on July 22.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

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