A medical marijuana growing operation on Silt Mesa has been cleared by the Garfield County commissioners to proceed in obtaining its state licensing.
But Green Natural Solutions Inc. of Glenwood Springs, the operators of the leased growing facility at 4501 Silt Mesa Road, may need to reapply for verification that a currently unused greenhouse at the site also existed before a June 2010 county moratorium on medical marijuana facilities.
Two growing operations in Garfield County are used to supply Green Natural's downtown Glenwood Springs dispensary.
One, located in Spring Valley, was verified by the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) last month as having been in existence before the two-year moratorium was put in place.
The moratorium was lifted in July of this year, after the county adopted new regulations for medical marijuana growing operations in unincorporated parts of the county. The rules now limit facilities to industrial zone districts, unless they existed in other areas prior to the moratorium.
Commissioners wanted more proof that Green Natural's Silt Mesa facility also was in existence before that time. That evidence was provided by co-owner Shalynn Hofert at the regular BOCC meeting in Carbondale on Monday, warranting the commissioners' OK.
But the manager of Green Natural's two growing operations, Justin Rambo, also said they eventually plan to utilize the greenhouse that's on the Silt Mesa site.
The problem is, it wasn't listed in the original verification application as part of the operation, county officials pointed out at the Monday meeting.
The new zoning rules prohibit the expansion of pre-existing facilities in zones where they are no longer allowed. That includes the rural/residential zoning on Silt Mesa.
Any expansion would mean the facility would be out of compliance, acting county attorney Carey Gagnon advised the commissioners.
"They would have to come back with a new land-use application," she said. But, that would then raise the question of whether it's still a pre-existing, nonconforming use, she also said.
The other option is for Green Naturals to reapply for verification that the facility existed before the moratorium, but this time with the inclusion of the greenhouse.
"So the decision is to reapply, or throw away the six figures we've put into this operation?" Rambo asked of the commissioners.
Rambo said the county planning department never asked for a formal site plan as part of the original application. Otherwise, the greenhouse would have been included, he said.
Rambo also said when growing operations first started to be established in Garfield County, he was advised by county officials that it was an agricultural business. So, the rural zone district seemed appropriate at the time, he said.
"I have a problem with this whole process," Rambo said.
County verification of pre-existing medical marijuana facilities is now required when businesses apply to state regulators for permits. New operations come under the county's new zoning regulations.
In addition to being limited to industrial zones, growing facilities can be no closer than 1,000 feet from schools, day care centers, parks, churches and public buildings. They are also restricted to supplying only dispensaries located within Garfield County.
In November 2010, Garfield County voters were asked to decide three ballot questions related to medical marijuana, which was legalized by Colorado voters in 2001.
Local voters decided to prohibit dispensaries and the manufacture of marijuana-infused products in unincorporated areas of the county. But voters agreed by a small margin to allow growing operations.