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Glenwood Springs City Council to continue code of conduct discussion

Disparaging comments, what can be provided to the media and how such rules might be enforced generated over 90 minutes of conversation by the Glenwood Springs City Council on Nov. 5.

Now, the council is slated to continue that conversation during a work session slated for 4 p.m. Thursday.

At the Nov. 5 meeting, Mayor Jonathan Godes explained that the code of conduct is a council-driven effort three and a half years in the making designed to guide the behavior of councilors during and possibly outside of meetings.

Councilor Tony Hershey said he would not support the code of conduct, saying anything that restricts free speech is “unenforceable nonsense and a colossal waste of time.”

Councilor Charlie Willman — who drafted the code after reviewing similar codes from other cities — said that he did not intend to restrict free speech in the draft.

“It’s more addressing how we address each other, not what we say,” he said.

City attorney Karl Hanlon said that he would review the document for infringement of free speech after council decides on language but the code is more about behavior.

“Decorum is very different from speech,” he said.

Disputes broke out throughout the work session in the battle between aspirational ideals of behavior and legally enforceable rules.

Willman began to run through the draft section by section. Council discussed sections I through V, leaving VI through VII for this week’s meeting.

The councilors’ fine-toothed combs came out as they haggled over words or intentions.

Councilor Shelley Kaup said that a line reading “Each council member shall respect all other council members” sounds like it’s dictating what councilors should feel and suggested it be changed to “Each council member shall treat all other council members with respect.”

A line about councilors not leaving the dais prompted Godes to say, “If someone storms off, they’re signifying that they’re done for that evening.”

Willman disagreed, saying that he in the past had been hot-headed and just needed some time to cool off. 

“As an elected representative of the city I shouldn’t be barred from the remainder of the meeting because I let my emotions get the better of me,” he said.

Godes suggested a line about councilors not belittling or disparaging each other inside or outside of meetings should apply to anyone before the council.

Hanlon didn’t argue that point but said this should apply to meetings only. Any councilor is completely within their rights to go to the bar and badmouth the mayor, he said.

Godes asked about restricting councilors’ use of the media after mentioning an opinion piece by Hershey responding to an opinion piece by Councilor Paula Stepp, both written this summer.

“It wasn’t a good look; it wasn’t productive,” he said.

Hershey said residents want to know what their councilors think.

“It’s a legitimate disagreement, and that should be aired in the public. That’s what the people want,” he said.

Hanlon made it clear that restricting use of the media can be a part of the code of conduct but it would not be legally enforceable.

Similar logic applies to conduct unbecoming an elected official, where a hypothetical bar fight involving a councilor was discussed.

Council finished the work session discussing whether the code should apply to members of boards and commissions.

Councilor Ingrid Wussow did not think that’s a good idea.

“I don’t think we should have a lot of stipulations. We’re lucky that people want to show up,” she said.

Kaup said that it is a good idea for two reasons. It raises the expectations of how to act as a public servant, and it also gives council an “out” with a problem member.

Council has allotted an hour and a half for the continued discussion.

Marijuana regulations

Council is also scheduled to give a first reading to a municipal code amendment regarding retail marijuana stores at the regular council meeting starting at 6:15 p.m. Thursday.

The Planning and Zoning Commission had discussed regulations over several meetings and unanimously approved revisions to the code on Oct. 27.

The code revisions focus on expanded buffers and a cap on the number of pot shops allowed based on population.

The regulations currently dictate that a new shop must be 900 feet from other pot shops and 500 feet from schools. The revisions change the buffers to 1,000 feet from either and added to that list mental health and drug treatment facilities and parks.

P&Z recommended using areas defined as parks in Title 090 of the municipal code excluding trails. 

There is currently no maximum number of pot shops allowed in the city, and the revisions included a cap of one shop per 1,000 residents.

City staff recommends that council approve the revisions.


Pot shops get the OK from Glenwood Springs officials

Two retail marijuana shops have received approvals this month at different levels of city government.

Martin’s Natural Medicinals

Martin’s Natural Medicinals went through a rollercoaster ride during the voting process for its shop at the corner of Highway 6 and Mel Ray Road in West Glenwood.

After having heard a presentation at the Oct. 15 City Council meeting, commissioners had no questions at the Nov. 5 meeting and went straight to a motion by Councilor Charlie Willman to approve with staff conditions. Councilor Shelley Kaup seconded.

The motion failed 4-3, with Mayor Jonathan Godes and councilors Ingrid Wussow, Tony Hershey and Willman opposed.

City attorney Karl Hanlon suggested council make a motion to deny with findings — a reason why the application was denied.

Wussow made the motion to deny, saying that the shop does not meet the comprehensive plan’s goal of diverse economic development and does not fit in with small town character. Hershey seconded.

Before the second vote Councilor Steve Davis said a pot shop at this location was approved by council several years ago, and “nothing has changed since then” in regards to laws and regulations, so he said he supported the application.

Kaup reminded council that this is a relocation of a business, and the Planning & Zoning Commission recommended approval 5-0, and therefore she supported the application as well.

The motion to deny then failed 4-3, with Wussow, Hershey and Willman in favor of denial.

Godes them made a second motion to approve, which Kaup seconded.

This time the motion to approve passed, with Wussow, Hershey and Willman opposed.

Godes explained that he changed his mind before the motion to deny in consideration of this being a business relocation.

Kind Castle

At a Planning and Zoning Special meeting Monday night, Kind Castle got a 5-0 vote to approve with conditions.

P&Z had heard a presentation at its Oct. 27 regular meeting from Chris Hawkins of Alpine Planning on behalf of Kind Castle for a pot shop on the southeast corner of Wulfsohn Road and Flat Tops View Drive in Glenwood Meadows. 

Senior planner Trent Hyatt read public comment from Amy Rogge in opposition to the shop, saying it was too close to the rec center, would likely have offensive odors and would limit the success of the lodges across the street.

Hawkins responded that the shop meets all city requirements for distance from schools, parks, etc. and the shop would likely not be visible from the rec center because of landscaping and a wooden fence; city staff has made it clear that odor has not been an issue with retail pot shops; and Courtyard by Marriott has expressed support for the shop in a letter submitted to the city.

Commissioner Sumner Schachter moved to approve with staff conditions, and Commissioner Carolyn Cipperly seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

The application will next be heard by City Council at an upcoming meeting.


Glenwood Springs P&Z approves revisions to marijuana regulations

The Glenwood Springs Planning and Zoning Commission on Oct. 27 approved revisions to marijuana regulations and heard an application for a pot shop in Glenwood Meadows. 

P&Z had been discussing over several meetings revisions to the municipal code pertaining to retail marijuana shops and had asked staff to prepare a recommendation based on those discussions.

The revisions focused on buffers and a population cap. 

The regulations currently dictate that a new shop must be 900 feet from other pot shops and 500 feet from schools. The revisions change the buffers to 1,000 feet from either and added to that list parks and mental health and drug treatment facilities.

There is currently no maximum number of pot shops allowed in the city, and the revision included a cap of one shop per 1,000 residents.

City staff recommended approval of the revisions.

Commissioner George Shaver asked if the city has a designation of what constitutes a park, and whether the trail system above Glenwood Meadows could be considered a park.

Senior planner Trent Hyatt said that if trails were considered as parks that could potentially include the Rio Grande Trail.

“It would be tough to designate the Rio Grande Trail as an official ‘park,’” but buffers around trails is worth discussing, he said.

Assistant city manager Jennifer Ooton said the city has a list of city parks — which includes Boy Scout Trail — and a definition of the term “park” that includes an “other” category that could be construed to refer to trails. She suggested attaching a list of parks to the regulations to make it clear what the buffers would surround and to use the park definition while exempting the “other” category to avoid confusion about whether trails require buffers.

Commissioner Carolyn Cipperly said that a goal of the comprehensive plan is to be a regional shopping hub. With that in mind, Gypsum and New Castle comprise roughly 10,000 people combined and have no pot shops, so the city should accommodate that doubling of the population when considering pot shop caps.

“I’m less in favor of a numerical cap. I do think that the 1,000-foot setbacks have gotten us really close to what I believe City Council was encouraging us to work on,” she said. She asked for some support in removing the cap per population from the regs but got none.

Commissioner Kathryn Grosscup moved to approve the draft regulations with the addition of the parks definition and exempting its “other” category. Commissioner Sumner Schachter seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.

The next step is for public hearings before council.

“All code changes are done by ordinance, which requires two hearings before City Council,” assistant economic/community development director Gretchen Ricehill said in an email.

Kind Castle

P&Z heard a special use permit application from Chris Hawkins of Alpine Planning on behalf of Kind Castle for a pot shop on the southeast corner of Wulfsohn Road and Flat Tops View Drive. 

In August P&Z had paved the way for this review by overturning a staff decision that pot shops were not allowed in Glenwood Meadows, denying Hawkins’ original application.

The application calls for a 4,504-square-foot, two-story building, 3,270 square feet of which would be for the pot shop with 784 square feet for a future retail establishment.

Hawkins said that the project will provide 17 parking spaces, more than the 11 required by zoning.

He also pointed out that the shop would meet the new 1,000-foot buffers even though the current less-stringent regulations apply to this application.

No residents spoke during the public comment portion of the discussion.

The commission voted unanimously to continue the discussion to the next regular meeting on Nov. 9 to allow the public the opportunity to comment.

Alternates needed

With the appointment of P&Z Commissioner Ingrid Wussow to City Council, her seat on the commission is currently vacant. On the agenda at Thursday’s council meeting is considering appointing current alternate Ben West to fill the vacant commission seat. According to the city website, there is currently a vacant alternate seat on P&Z, and West’s appointment would leave two vacant alternate seats.

“We are actively recruiting to fill these vacancies. Alternate positions are considered critical to the function of the commission. Alternates often are asked to fill in when regular members cannot attend a meeting or need to recuse themselves from particular items due to conflicts,” Ricehill said in an email.

Applications are available on the city website.


City to discuss pot, Blake and Ward 2 before the election

This week, the city of Glenwood Springs will be discussing marijuana regulations, seeking input on Blake Avenue south of 23rd Street and appointing a city councilor. All meetings can be attended via Zoom.

Marijuana regulations

The Planning and Zoning Commission will once again discuss possible changes to the municipal code regarding marijuana facilities at its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27.

At P&Z’s special meeting on Sept. 15 councilors focused on buffers of 1,000 feet around schools, parks, other pot shops and mental health and drug treatment facilities. Another idea was limiting the number of retail shops to one per 1,000 residents.

P&Z will have draft code language to review and could make a recommendation to City Council from this meeting, assistant city manager Jennifer Ooton said.

“Staff is going to put together their best recommendation for a cap based on the population and also increasing distance requirements,” assistant economic/community development director Gretchen Ricehill said after P&Z’s Sept. 15 meeting.

If a recommendation is made, it would likely go to council at its Nov. 19 meeting, Ooton said.

Should council decide on a code change, that would require an ordinance, which requires two readings before council, Ooton said.

Blake Avenue 

The city of Glenwood Springs is holding a virtual meeting from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, to discuss street configurations of Blake Avenue related to the Bell Rippy development north of Walmart; and Blake improvements from 23rd Street to Highway 82 at McDonald’s.

Council voted unanimously at its Oct. 1 meeting to accept staff’s recommendation to keep the Blake Gate closed until a certificate of occupancy is issued for a building at the Bell Rippy development at some point in 2021.

At the Oct. 28 meeting Engineering and Community Development staff will introduce and present different circulation options for consideration, and the city will ask for comments from the Palmer and Blake area neighborhoods. Proposed plans will be posted on the city’s website at cogs.us/blake on Monday, Oct. 26, according to a press release.

Comments from the neighborhood residents will then be presented and discussed at the city’s next Transportation Commission meeting at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, Election Day. 

“City Council has asked staff to bring back a recommendation, and I would anticipate that it would be some version of the plans that are being finalized for the [Oct. 28] meeting. We are looking for input from the public and Transportation Commission, so there may be some revisions to the ideas that staff will offer for consideration,” Ooton said.

City Council Ward 2 seat

Last Monday, City Council interviewed Ray Schmahl, Monica Wolny and Ingrid Wussow for appointment to the Ward 2 council seat recently vacated by Rick Voorhees.

At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, council will meet to make a selection.

Public comment will be accepted, Mayor Jonathan Godes said.


Two pot shop applications working through the system

Glenwood Springs City Council took a look at a couple of marijuana shop permit applications at its regular meeting on Oct. 15.

Kind Castle

Chris Hawkins of Alpine Planning asked council to determine whether a special use permit application from Kind Castle to open a retail marijuana shop at 2114 Grand Ave. is “substantially” different from a previous application from Kind Castle at the same location.

On June 18, council voted 5-2 to deny the previous application after a 7-0 recommendation for denial from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

City code states that “Following denial of an application, the decision-making body shall not decide on applications that are the same or substantially similar within one year of the previous denial.”

Councilor Charlie Willman, himself a lawyer, asked city attorney Karl Hanlon what “substantial” means.

Hanlon replied, “A substantial and material change to the application is what council determines is a substantial and material change to the application.”

Hawkins’ presentation listed 10 ways in which this application differed from the previous one.

Foremost is the business would occupy all three units of the building, for 2,989 square feet, where the previous application was for retail in one unit for 779 square feet.

Having one tenant addresses concerns expressed during the previous application process, including parking problems, Hawkins said, which Councilor Shelley Kaup said was the reason she voted for denial last time.

Other changes, according to Hawkins, include: the Stinker gas station agreeing to allow shared access between the properties; enhanced odor mitigation; signed affidavits of support from residents living above the business; reduced trips to the property by elimination of the previous barber and frame shops; elimination of the Cedar Lodge pole sign; and a promise from the applicant to spruce up the property within a year of approval.

Haley Carmer of Garfield & Hecht spoke during public comment representing Cedar Lodge Motel. She said that there is nothing materially different in this application, the increased retail space increases the potential for odor issues, and she wasn’t convinced that parking problems are solved.

Mayor Jonathan Godes was concerned about the timing of the application as the Planning and Zoning Commission is reviewing marijuana regulations.

“As long as we received and deemed complete an application … we would process that application even as we’re considering code amendments for this specific use,” city planner Trent Hyatt said.

Councilor Steve Davis said that the application meets the requirements of being materially different.

“There is a substantial change. The substantial change is they are the sole occupant of that facility now, and they will be in complete control of that parking lot,” he said, moving to allow the application to go through the permitting process. Kaup seconded.

Councilor Tony Hershey said he did not see it that way.

“I agree with Haley. … This is the same project, and I don’t see a substantial change,” he said.

The motion passed 4-1 with Hershey opposed. Councilor Paula Stepp was absent.

Martin’s Natural Medicinals

An application for Martin’s Natural Medicinals was fairly straightforward. 

Martin’s is proposing to take over a former convenience store at 23 Mel Ray Road after the location of the store on Sixth Street sold.

Hyatt’s presentation demonstrated how the proposed Martin’s Medicinals location meets all review criteria. The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval 5-0, and city staff also recommend approval.

With no discussion, council voted unanimously to continue the discussion to the Nov. 5 meeting. City attorney Karl Hanlon explained that this is the procedure for planning items heard remotely to allow the public time to comment should there be problems trying to comment online.


Glenwood Springs could consider cap on pot shops based on population

Glenwood Springs’ Planning and Zoning Commission discussed instituting a cap equal to one store per 1,000 residents at its continued discussion of marijuana regulations Tuesday night at a special meeting.

During 45 minutes of discussion, the focus was on a cap either of a set number or based on population and increasing buffers to 1,000 feet.

Current regulations dictate a 500-foot buffer around kindergarten through 12th-grade schools and 900 feet around existing pot shops.

There are currently seven pot shops operating and two more permitted but not operating. Senior planner Trent Hyatt said there are also two pending applications, including one on the east side of Glenwood Meadows.

City staff has determined that with existing buffers, Glenwood could approve 10 more pot shops for a total of 19.

At the previous work session, the commission expressed general consensus that 19 pot shops would be too many for Glenwood, and wanted to see how increasing buffers around schools and adding buffers around substance treatment facilities and parks would limit the number of allowable pot shops.

At Tuesday’s special meeting, Hyatt presented two maps, one with a 500-foot buffer around schools, parks and mental health and drug treatment facilities and 900 feet around existing retail marijuana shops; and another with 1,000 feet around all uses. 

The meeting focused only on the 1,000-foot buffer map.

“I’m not sure increasing the buffers got you where you want to be,” Hyatt said.

The exact number of pot shops allowed with the 1,000-foot buffer was open to some interpretation, but Hyatt said that it would be 11 total, bearing in mind that one pending application is within 1,000 feet of Glenwood Springs Middle School but must be evaluated using the current criteria.

He also pointed out that if the airport were redeveloped there would space there outside of the buffers for a shop.

Commission chair Marco Dehm came up with the idea of limiting shops to one person per 1,000 residents, but he also recommended using the buffers to avoid over concentration of pot shops, especially downtown. 

Commissioners Ingrid Wussow and George Shaver both asked how population would be determined in non-Census years.

Hyatt said, “I’ve been very impressed with the state demographer.” The office looks at factors such as household size, new units built and deaths, he said.

Commissioner Sumner Schachter said, “I’m in favor of 10-12 shops based on our population.”

Commissioner Carolyn Cipperly was in favor of the 1,000-foot buffers but opposed to the cap based on population. She said that considering pot tourism is “the thing,” and New Castle has no pot shops, Glenwood is serving more than its population of roughly 10,000.

The next step will be reviewing a staff recommendation based on 1,000-foot buffers and a cap based on population and taking public comment. 

“Staff is going to put together their best recommendation for a cap based on the population and also increasing distance requirements, and we’ll bring that back to the commission at some point at a regular meeting, so the public will be allowed the opportunity to weigh in,” Assistant Economic/Community Development Director Gretchen Ricehill said in a follow-up interview.

She did not know when the recommendation would come before the commission.


Glenwood Springs’ Planning and Zoning Commission discusses pot regs

Glenwood Springs’ Planning and Zoning Commission discussed on Tuesday capping the number of marijuana retail businesses and adding and extending buffers where such businesses would not be allowed.

Though no decision was made on changing regulations, much of the discussion was in favor of limiting the number of retail businesses through use of buffers rather than by instituting a maximum allowable number of shops, or cap.

A buffer is an area determined by a distance in all directions from the boundaries of a use, such as a school, where new pot shops would not be given a license to operate.

Glenwood currently has no cap. It prohibits a retail marijuana establishment from being approved within 500 feet of kindergarten through 12th grade schools or within 900 feet of another pot shop.

City staff has determined that with existing buffers, Glenwood could approve 10 more pot shops for a total of 19. 

Commission chair Marco Dehm said, “I’d put a cap of 10 on it for Glenwood and leave it alone.”

City staff presented a table of regulations from 16 jurisdictions across the state. 

The information that most interested the commission was: three of the 16 have a buffer around parks; seven have a cap; eight have a buffer around drug/alcohol treatment/mental health facilities, hospitals or halfway houses; nine have a 1,000-foot buffer around schools; and nine have a buffer around child care facilities.

Green Joint owner Daniel Sullivan gave a presentation about how it’s too difficult to get a marijuana license in some Colorado municipalities but too easy in others, such as Glenwood.

“It comes to a point when enough is enough. We don’t need 30 liquor stores, we don’t need 19 pot stores,” he said. “I’m ready for a level playing field here in Glenwood.”

That prompted a response during public comment from Matthew Bennett of New Castle, the only area town that does not allow retail marijuana.

“Don’t let some guy who would suffer from the competition tell you how to run the show,” he said.

Bennett is a former Post Independent reporter who left in June.

In P&Z’s discussion, commissioner Ingrid Wussow said, “To have 19 [pot shops] with our population seems excessive. … So many of the other communities have much more restrictive distancing measures in areas that it [seems to have been] an oversight that we didn’t include those as well.”

Commissioner Carolyn Cipperly saw value in buffers around parks, alcohol and drug rehab facilities, and schools, but didn’t understand keeping pot sales away from child care facilities.

“I don’t quite get daycare centers. Do we think 5-year-olds are going to try to buy marijuana?” she asked.

Commissioner Kathryn Grosscup said, “I think kids who are under 5 understand stuff, so I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between school and daycare.”

Wussow said increasing buffers around schools and adding buffers around drug and alcohol treatment facilities and parks makes sense for two reasons.

“What it does is twofold. … We’re not putting limits on businesses. We’re saying if you can find a location that meets our aesthetic and community goals, more power to you to run a business. But in turn it says these aren’t good locations for you to run a business like this,” she said.

Wussow said that buffers could be used to limit the number of possible pot shops.

“I’m saying no cap and stronger restrictions on location. In turn it makes it much more difficult for people to find a location,” she said. 

Commissioner Kathryn Grosscup said she liked Wussow’s thinking and suggested increasing the schools buffer to 1,000 feet to be more in line with other communities. She said the 1,000-foot buffer should apply to daycare facilities as well.

Commissioner George Shaver said a parks buffer by itself could effectively limit the number of pot shops.

“There are a lot of parks around. I think that would do a lot toward limiting the number of locations in town. … I’d be curious to see what that alone would do,” he said.

Cipperly asked what would happen if a school or halfway house wanted to move within the buffer zone of an existing pot shop.

City senior planner Trent Hyatt replied, “We would only be regulating the marijuana use … so that existing marijuana location would become a legal nonconforming use.”

The work session during Tuesday’s regular meeting was a continuation of a discussion from the July meeting, and discussion will continue at the September meeting with maps drawn up by Hyatt that show how many pot shops could be allowed with buffers of varying distances around child care facilities, halfway houses, alcohol and drug treatment facilities, K-12 schools and parks.


Nearly 16,000 illegal marijuana plants netted in multi-agency operation north of Rifle

Thousands of illegally grown marijuana plants valued on the black market at more than $7.5 million were destroyed and six arrested during a multi-agency operation north of Rifle on Tuesday.

The grow bust netted nearly 16,000 individual marijuana plants over five sites on a mixture of public and private land northwest of Rifle Gap Reservoir, said Steven Knight, DEA resident agent in charge. 

“There have been bigger (illegal grows) but in Colorado that’s a pretty big one,” he said. “That’s the biggest one I know of this year.”

Law enforcement officers hike past a cleared marijuana field north of Rifle on Tuesday afternoon. The operation included numerous agencies: DEA, FBI, ATF, TRIDENT, Western Colorado Drug Task Force, Seventh Judicial Drug Task Force, Homeland Security, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Colorado National Guard, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and Rifle Police Department.
Peter Baumann / Post Independent

Each plant is capable of producing roughly one pound of finished product per growing cycle. With an estimated black market value of $500-$700, the bust diverted millions of dollars from the illicit drug market.

The six individuals arrested were all Hispanic males. Their citizenship status was not immediately clear but they will face manufacturing with intent to distribute charges and possibly others from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. No firearms were recovered in the operation.

“If any of those cooperate and give us information, we’ll build upon that,” Knight said of the arrested individuals. “And there’s usually some type of electronic evidence in the grows that we could exploit and determine who else is behind it.”

Dozens of agencies partnered together on the operation, which began in the early morning hours Tuesday and continued well into Wednesday.

“It’s hard work, it’s labor-intensive, it’s a big operation and it takes a lot of people to do it,” Knight said. “There’s no one agency that could have done that. It took a major team of all the state, federal and local offices and agencies together.”

Federal, state and local agencies worked together for the operation, including DEA, FBI, ATF, TRIDENT, Western Colorado Drug Task Force, Seventh Judicial Drug Task Force, Homeland Security, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Colorado National Guard, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and Rifle Police Department.

Marijuana possession and cultivation is legal in Colorado, but the fields destroyed Tuesday were cultivated for the illicit market. For legal marijuana, Colorado has numerous regulatory requirements. In addition, marijuana produced for the legal market is sold by local businesses and generates tax revenue for education, public health, human services and more, the Colorado Sun reports. 

Marijuana grown for sale on the black market follows no regulatory process and provides none of those revenue benefits. Instead, the revenue generated would have gone to drug cartels in Mexico, Knight said.

“In this case the money would have gone south,” he said.

It can be difficult to determine how long illegal grow operations have been in place, but Knight said there were signs that the areas had been seasonally active for multiple years.

“We don’t know exactly but it looks like some of these grows could be repetitive grows meaning they were there before just based on satellite photos,” he said.

A campsite is seen at one of the illegal marijuana grow sites north of Rifle on Tuesday. Six Hispanic males were arrested during the operation.
Peter Baumann / Post Independent

The sites don’t just represent a danger to the agents in the operation or anyone from the public who might have randomly stumbled upon them — they also can be detrimental to the environment. In Tuesday’s operation, irrigation for some of the sites was supplied by diverting water from nearby streams.

Fertilizers and pesticides used can also pose a serious health risk. Although it wasn’t found in this week’s operation, the highly toxic and banned pesticide Carbofuran is becoming more common in illegal grows out West, Knight said, and was discovered at a similar operation in Las Animas County in 2019.

While the remote nature and rough terrain of the sites were likely beneficial to keeping the grows hidden, it’s still unclear why that area was chosen in particular.

“They might have some type of inside knowledge of the area, but it’s a great question,” Knight said. “They just go to these remote places and obviously they want to be where people are not.”


Glenwood P&Z opens door for review of Meadows pot shop proposal

Glenwood Meadows is one step closer to having its own retail marijuana facility.

Glenwood’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously Thursday night to overturn Assistant City Manager/Community Development Director Jennifer Ooton’s decision to reject a special use permit application for a pot shop at Glenwood Meadows on the grounds that it is not an allowed use.

The motion to overturn was made by Carolyn Cipperly and seconded by George Shaver.

The decision does not approve the permit application or allow marijuana facilities at Meadows. It allows the special-use permit application to move forward with a conference as part of the normal process for marijuana businesses as set out in the municipal code.

The hour-and-half meeting focused largely on interpretation of the Glenwood Meadows development documents.

In the meeting introduction, the city’s Assistant Economic/Community Development Director Gretchen Ricehill reviewed Ooton’s reasoning that the city has interpreted the Meadows Annexation and Development Agreement as proscriptive, meaning if the use is not listed it is not allowed.

The approval of Glenwood Meadows predated legal marijuana, so it could not have been listed as an approved use.

Lawyer Ben Johnston, who represents Glenwood Meadows LLC, said that the Meadows Zoning and Development Plan has a list of prohibited uses in its appendix. Marijuana retail is not among the prohibited uses, either.

Johnston also listed two examples of uses that are not listed in the Zoning and Development Plan that the city has previously allowed: the community garden in 2010 and electric vehicle charging stations in 2013 and 2019.

“With respect to each of these examples, the city did not take the position that since the use was not listed in the ADA it was not allowed. … [The city] has always taken the position that if the use is not listed in the ADA the [municipal] code applies,” he said.

The parcel in question, Lot 11B, which is on the corner of Flat Tops View Drive and Wulfsohn Road, is under Meadows zoning C-2, in which retail is allowed, according to the Zoning and Development Plan.

In the introduction, Ricehill showed that marijuana is not listed under retail in the municipal code, it is its own separate commercial category. She also pointed out that, according to the ADA, all zoning and development is subject to the more stringent rules of either the Zoning and Development Plan or the municipal code. 

Johnston said that the municipal code is more stringent than the Meadows zoning because it breaks out marijuana as its own category, suggesting that in this case the special-use permit application process should be followed.

In Ooton’s rejection letter, she said that the applicant would need to amend the ADA, which would require a vote of all Meadows property owners. 

Mike Maple, with property owner Glenwood Meadows LLC, questioned this, saying, “There have been four amendments to the ADA … and those amendments were only signed by city of Glenwood Springs and Glenwood Meadows LLC.”

In regards to the community garden and charging stations, “The city did not take position that since the use is not listed in the ADA it must be amended to allow such use,” Johnston said.

Robert Macgregor, also with Glenwood Meadows LLC, said that land-use decisions should be in the hands of the city, while many of the Meadows property owners are from out of state.

“The power should lie with you, and you’ll give it away tonight if you back [Ooton’s] decision,” he said.

However, City Attorney Karl Hanlon told the commission, “It’s not the job of this body to make a decision based on whether or not the developer in front of you happens to live in Glenwood Springs.”

Commissioner Sumner Schachter asked if there had been other marijuana shop requests for Meadows. Ricehill said there had been, but the city doesn’t keep a record of denials and couldn’t say how many denials there had been.

Maple and Macgregor expressed surprise at this, and both said they had never been informed of any requests for marijuana establishments at Meadows.

New Castle resident Matthew Bennett was the only person to speak during the public comment phase. 

“What is so bad about having another marijuana shop? Why can’t you at least have the discussion?” he asked. “You have a liquor store that’s awesome there. What’s so bad about pot?”

Hanlon gave P&Z some general guidance.

“You’re making a choice on interpretation of the document. … I think the question is: Do we really want to just start filling in the gaps fully in Glenwood Meadows with the underlying zoning from the city of Glenwood Springs? … It charts the course forward that we as staff will continue to interpret the document based on what you decide here.”

During council comments following the vote, Cipperly said, “I’m quite impressed with the walkability of the Glenwood Meadows … and this is definitely something that we as a city are trying to encourage. … If we allow a shop over there it will probably get a lot of cars off of our streets and help further the goals of our [comprehensive] plan.”


Extended Table goes al fresco

COVID-19 nearly put a fork in LIFT-UP’s Extended Table meal program.

But the organization and its volunteers cooked up a way to continue serving evening meals to whoever needs one.

With the statewide lockdown in March, Extended Table was no longer able to offer meals in the kitchen of the First United Methodist Church at Ninth and Cooper in Glenwood. 

LIFT-UP decided to continue the program outdoors, first in the alley behind the church, later moving to the front.

“It was important for LIFT-UP to keep the program going and just pivot to the new rules of COVID to allow the program to be sustainable through the pandemic. Then our volunteers jumped right on board and were flexible right away and said, ‘Yes, we’re all for doing it,’” LIFT-UP executive director Angela Mills said.

The move outdoors was the only big change as it’s still the volunteers that make it happen. 

“The volunteer groups purchase and prep and serve the food themselves,” Mills said.

The brown bag nature of the meals requires some imagination to avoid redundancy. 

“We’ve got to be more creative because when we were inside we could have warm meals for them; we did a lot of meals in crockpots. Now we’re coming up with egg salad, tuna salad, taco salad, and people are doing wraps. Some people actually took a little grill and grilled up some burgers and hot dogs for them. It’s just trying to think of different ways so they don’t get burned out on sandwiches,” volunteer Jamie Darien of Glenwood Springs said.

Since the pandemic the turnout has been down a little bit.

“When we were inside we would have anywhere from 35-50 or 60 people showing up depending on weather, depending on the month, and now it’s usually about 25-30 people,” Darien said.

Mills confirmed that the number of meals officially served has been lower during the coronavirus outbreak. 

There were 658 meals served in January and 664 in February. That number dropped by an average of about 20% over the next four months, with about 550 meals served each in March, April and June with May dipping to 437, she said.

A crew from Mountain View Church hands out meals at the First United Methodist Church in Glenwood on Wednesday evening. From left: Yoko Smith; Annalise, Katie and Gretchen Laven; and Kristyn Hartmann.

One possible explanation for declining numbers is some people staying away because of COVID-19.

“We have some local folks sometimes that go in that are single, and they just go in for social hour,” said Renee Horton, LIFT-UP office manager.

“It’s the seniors that come in for the social aspect, and now the seniors are taking care of themselves and staying home,” Mills said. 

Darien said among those that show up there is still socializing.

“A lot of them hang out in front of the church and eat and socialize. That’s what so much of Extended Table is — a chance to have a community,” she said.

The number of meals served in Rifle has seen little change between February and May, with a high of 202 in February and a low of 185 in April.

Darien said that the brown bag format has some advantages for recipients.

“It really helps them that a lot of the food they’re getting now they can take with them to their camp. There’s a lot of snacks: beef jerky, chips, apple sauce, a lot of protein bars, a lot of granola bars, things they can stuff into their packs or pockets and take with them,” Darien said.

Most of the shifts are filled with church groups. Darien said that some volunteers have decided not to participate during the pandemic, but others have filled in.

“There have been a lot of empty nights because people of course are fearful of being there, but other people have stepped right in and picked those nights up,” she said.

All in all she finds it a satisfying experience.

“Everybody’s there to help each other whether they have a home or not. I think that really says a lot,” Darien said.