Business owner accuses Glenwood City Council members of using bias, not municipal code, to justify denial of special use permit for retail marijuana store
The Glenwood Springs City Council denied a special use permit application for a retail marijuana dispensary at 2114 Grand Ave. on a 5-1 vote Thursday night.
Council Member Shelley Kaup was the only one in favor of allowing the permit; Council Member Steve Davis was not at the meeting.
But before the council took action, a letter from the applicant and owner of Kind Castle dispensary, John Dyet, was read aloud for the record by City Attorney Karl Hanlon.
The letter accused several council members of biased behavior when justifying why they voted against a motion to approve the application during the May 20 City Council meeting.
During that meeting, a motion to approve the application failed due to a 3-3 vote, and it was decided to continue the hearing to the next City Council meeting and allow council member Ingrid Wussow to cast her vote on the application after reviewing the meeting recording.
Dyet wrote that the three council members who voted against his application prejudged the application and demanded that Mayor Pro Tem Charlie Willman and Councilor Tony Hershey recuse themselves from voting on the special use permit the second time around.
“Tony (Hershey) said from the beginning that he wouldn’t be in favor of this application before we even submitted it,” Dyet wrote.
“Charlie is a disgrace, no explanation needed. Ingrid, although I hope she renders her decision with a fair approach tonight and would appreciate her reviewing this from how the ordinance is written, she has clearly expressed biased behavior and prejudged this application.”
Hanlon read Dyet’s letter, noting that he received it in an email about an hour before the City Council meeting.
The letter also stated that Kaup’s vote on the special use permit during the May 20 meeting should not have counted because it was based on the number of schools in proximity to Hyland Park.
“Shelley based her vote on information that is not outlined in city code, therefore she cannot be trusted to vote as city regulations require,” Dyet wrote.
However, it was Councilor Paula Stepp, not Kaup, who denied the permit based on the number of schools and children near the retail marijuana store’s proposed location.
Kaup said Dyet must have confused her with another council member while writing the letter, noting that she would vote the same as she had during the last meeting, which would be in support of approving the permit application. Kaup said she voted in line with the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission decision to approve the permit as well.
After reading the letter, Hanlon advised the council to afford the applicant additional due process for rebuttal even though the hearing had closed.
“I’d also caution the council not to make a decision tonight based on what were, in some instances, very personal attacks made against you individually,” Hanlon said.
“This is a land use hearing in which you have to sit as an impartial judge. I know these remarks may be inflammatory to you, and you may take some personal umbridge with them. I caution you to look at the records in terms of making a decision this evening.”
Trevor McGarvey is Dyet’s attorney and spoke on his behalf during the five minutes allotted by the council for rebuttal.
“I think we had concerns — not only members of the Kind Castle but also people in the public had concerns — about the way the last meeting was handled and some of the comments of City Council members that might tend to indicate they weren’t giving this a fair shake or they weren’t neutrally deciding it based on what the municipal code set forward,” McGarvey said.
He said there’s a history between the city and Dyet when it comes to Dyet’s applications for dispensaries in Glenwood Springs.
“A lot of money was laid out, a lot of time put into the process,” McGarvey said.
“Applications and licenses were granted by the local licensing authority and the hearing officer in the past and then overturned on appeal by the City Council. I think some of Mr. Dyet’s frustration is from putting so much time and effort into making this work.”
While the approval of the application wasn’t guaranteed, McGarvey said his client relied on the list of conditions set forth by the planning and zoning commission.
“We relied on that list and went ahead and tried to do everything they recommended. In some instances those things cost a lot of money,” McGarvey said.
“I think some of the City Council members’ reasons for denial didn’t conform to what the decision was supposed to be made on per city of Glenwood Springs municipal code.”
Willman said he made his decision to deny the permit without any prejudgment or conflict of interest.
“The fact that I was disparaged in the email does not impact my decision at all,” Willman said.
“That’s Mr. Dyet’s point of view.”
Wussow said she would vote to deny the application, reasoning that the use of the building did not comply with the location.
“That’s where my decision came from,” Wussow said.
Godes was the only one to change his vote from approving the application to denying it.
“Councilor Wussow, your comments have swayed me, and I will be voting in favor of (denying) the motion as well,” Godes said.
Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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