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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.

cwertheim@postindependent.com


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