Glenwood Springs City Council tables decision on special use permit for marijuana retail store on Grand Avenue
The Glenwood City Council voted 6-0 to table a decision on whether or not to approve a special land use permit application for a marijuana retail store at 2114 Grand Ave.
The city’s planning and zoning commission approved the special use permit with a 5-1 vote.
The applicant, Chris Hawkins, addressed some of the comments from residents in opposition of approving the application during Thursday night’s council meeting.
Hawkins said the marijuana store, Kind Castle, would not negatively impact Glenwood Springs’ tourism industry and small town character.
Hawkins added that there are other marijuana stores in Glenwood Springs that have been approved to set up shop at locations near residential neighborhoods and hotels.
Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras wrote a letter to the council regarding the application, which outlined some concerns from a law enforcement standpoint.
Deras wrote that the number of proposed parking spaces in the layout hinders access to the residential units behind the proposed marijuana business.
“The number of proposed parking spaces and the layout of those spaces hinder access to the residential units immediately to the rear of the proposed business.
“Irrespective of what has been relayed to the council, this does not allow for unfettered access with vehicles and equipment to access the residential units,” Deras said.
“An example of this occurred when police and fire personnel responded to a medical aid call at a unit behind this business. This call evolved into a death investigation and there were five vehicles/apparatus (fire, police, ambulance) present.”
Deras said the emergency vehicles were required to park in the business’s front parking lot before taking their equipment to the rear unit.
“That was done while the business was unoccupied and no vehicles in the lot,” Deras wrote. “If there were patrons at this business and vehicles parked as indicated by the applicant’s own schematic, this would have likely complicated the lifesaving efforts of first responders.”
Deras also explained that the layout of the proposed marijuana business carried a unique risk.
“On Sept. 1, 2020, a different marijuana dispensary which is in the 700 block of Grand Avenue was the victim of a burglary,” Deras said.
“That building also has a residential unit attached to the building in the exact same fashion as this application. In that case, suspects accessed the marijuana dispensary by defeating the common wall.”
Deras said marijuana products and money were stolen. While some of the suspects were arrested immediately, a remaining subject that was known to be armed barricaded himself within an adjacent residential unit.
“This event depleted law enforcement resources,” Deras said.
Deras also wrote about his concern with a potential market saturation within the community.
Mayor Jonathan Godes said the applicant has addressed many concerns over the last year, which has led to the support of city staff and the planning and zoning commission.
“I feel the time when we denied this application was on moral grounds. But then we addressed it,” Godes said. “We gave this applicant a laundry list of things at that time of why we didn’t like it, the parking, the egress, the people living in the back.”
Godes said the applicant has addressed all those concerns, which was reflected in the planning and zoning’s 5-1 vote to approve the application.
“I do not think we should be making moral judgements,” Godes said. “One of those comments was from our police chief, are there not enough marijuana stores in this town? That’s a moral judgement.”
Godes said that if the city council votes to deny the application, the reason will be in part because some members don’t like the marijuana aspect.
“I think that’s a really unprofessional way to be making findings,” Godes said. “That’s just how I feel.”
Councilor Paula Stepp said the applicant has put a lot of work into addressing the concerns of the city and public, but said marijuana has a certain reputation.
“I also understand the concerns of marijuana usage from the aspect of kids,” Stepp said. “This is where I’m kind of drawing the line of what is our small town character. When people tell me that our small town character is to fill in density, my concern is our small town character. There is a large neighborhood across the street on Grand Avenue, there are three schools in the vicinity.”
Stepp said she applauds everything the applicant has done, adding that she would have a hard time voting to approve the application in its particular location.
“I have approved other locations in town, but this is kind of what my feeling is now,” Stepp said.
Councilors Stepp, Tony Hershey and Mayor Pro Tem Charlie Willman voted to deny the application, which resulted in a split 3-3 vote.
The council then voted 6-0 to table taking another vote until the next meeting and ask Ingrid Wussow to review the recording of the hearing before casting her vote at the June 3 meeting.
Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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