Applications to proceed under pot moratorium |

Applications to proceed under pot moratorium

Pending applications for new marijuana operations in Glenwood Springs, including a proposed cultivation facility on Devereux Road, would continue through the review process under a moratorium given initial approval Tuesday by City Council.

Council members, talking during a specially called meeting to consider the temporary, emergency moratorium, expressed reservations about “pulling the rug out from under” applicants who are already at various stages in the review process.

That includes four applications for new recreational retail marijuana stores in the downtown area, two of which are awaiting decisions by the city’s licensing official after formal review hearings earlier this month.

It also includes a proposed cultivation operation and retail store on Devereux Road that is scheduled before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on June 23.

A moratorium could extend to applications that have already been made, depending on how the ordinance is worded, City Attorney Karl Hanlon advised. But council was reluctant to go that route.

“I looked at this as an opportunity to re-address retail stores, not so much about what happens on Devereux Road in our industrial zone district,” Councilman Todd Leahy said of council’s consensus to seek a moratorium following a public hearing last week.

“These people are investing a lot of money … it feels wrong to interrupt that process,” he said.

But council agreed on a 6-1 vote that a moratorium of up to three months is needed to prevent a flood of new, perhaps not well-thought-out applications while council reviews rules and regulations that now guide marijuana businesses in Glenwood Springs.

For now, the moratorium applies to all types of new marijuana business applications, including retail licenses and land-use proposals for cultivation and manufacturing facilities.

The scope of the moratorium could be narrowed when council considers the ordinance on second reading at its regular June 4 meeting.

The action follows recent concerns raised by residents and business owners about the proliferation of new retail marijuana shops in the downtown core, including the pending new Green Dragon retail store and edibles manufacturing kitchen at 919 Grand Ave., next to the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue theater.

It and three other retail applications, as well as the proposed 16,483-square-foot Osiris marijuana growing operation and retail store on vacant land at 2150 Devereux Road, are proceeding under the zoning and licensing regulations adopted by the city in fall 2013. Retail marijuana sales were first allowed in Colorado in January 2014 under the voter-approved Amendment 64.

Glenwood’s regulations now allow for retail stores and certain manufacturing in any of the city’s commercial and industrial zone districts, as long as they are at least 325 feet from each other, and at least 500 feet from K-12 schools. Cultivation is limited to the city’s single industrial zone along Devereux.

Among the possible revisions being contemplated by council would be to require greater distance between businesses and schools, and maybe even greater restrictions within the downtown core area.

Ward 5 Councilman Matt Steckler said he would be reluctant to steer all of the marijuana businesses to the fringe areas of town.

“We have heavy tourist activity in our part of town, too,” Steckler, who represents the West Glenwood area, said of one of the primary concerns being expressed about the marijuana trade’s impact on tourism.

Councilman Stephen Bershenyi was the only member of council to vote against the moratorium.

“This seems like a knee-jerk reaction to an issue,” he said. “I have a hard time stepping in the way of the free market.”

Councilman Leo McKinney initially expressed similar concerns about enacting a moratorium, but ended up voting in favor of it as long as existing applications would be allowed to proceed.

“I get the concerns about the downtown core, and some of the neighborhood issues that we should address,” McKinney said.

McKinney also questioned whether there is a negative impact on tourism, noting the continued double-digit increases in accommodations tax collections for the city, even after the advent of marijuana legalization for recreational use last year.

“Some of the guides I’ve talked to say one of the first questions many people ask is where is the best place to buy marijuana,” McKinney said. “It’s just a fact of life now. … I don’t think we’re turning away tourism.”

In addition to the pending decisions on the Green Dragon license application and one for the so-called Recreational Releaf Dispensary at 404 10th St., two other retail license applications are slated for hearing before the city’s licensing officer on July 8.

The so-called Cannabist Castle Supermarket & Dispensary Lounge proposes to open shop at 818 Grand Ave., while the existing Martin’s Natural Medicinals medical marijuana dispensary at 216 Sixth St. has applied to expand into recreational sales.

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