Glenwood Springs eyes moratorium on new pot shops
A moratorium on new marijuana business applications appears likely as Glenwood Springs City Council gets set to review its rules and regulations guiding the industry, just 17 months after they were first put on the books.
“If we are going to re-address these issues, and we’ve now made that public, we need to move as quickly as possible,” Councilman Steve Davis urged during the regular Thursday council meeting, calling for an emergency moratorium that would put a temporary halt on new proposals.
A majority of council said it would be in favor of moving in that direction. An emergency measure that would go into immediate effect will be formally considered at a special council meeting Tuesday morning.
The move came after a lengthy meeting Thursday where more than two dozen citizens lined up to urge the city to amend its marijuana zoning and licensing ordinances in an effort to control the proliferation of new retail and related businesses, especially in the city’s downtown core.
“We count on you as elected council members to uphold our voice,” said Glenwood Springs resident Jim Yellico, who is also the elected Garfield County Assessor.
“Personally, I would like to see it limited to what’s already here … and not see any more,” Yellico said in reference to the five existing businesses, three of which sell both medical and retail recreational marijuana.
Prompting the recent public outcry was a flurry of proposed new marijuana business applications, including four pending license requests for retail shops in the city’s downtown core stretching from Sixth to 10th streets.
However, a moratorium would not halt any of the license applications already in process. Applications for the proposed new Green Dragon location at 919 Grand Ave. and the Recreational Releaf outlet at 404 10th St. are awaiting a decision by the city’s licensing authority officer following review hearings last week.
Two other retail marijuana license applications that were filed last month, one for a retail store at Sixth and Grand and another in the 800 block of Grand, are scheduled for hearings in July, according to City Clerk Catherine Mythen.
Those who showed up at the Thursday council meeting offered a variety of suggestions for changing the way the city handles marijuana businesses, from increasing setbacks between establishments and from schools, to limiting zone districts where businesses can locate, and possibly banning them altogether from the downtown core.
Others suggested the city consider imposing an extra tax on retail marijuana sales to help pay for police enforcement of violations, such as smoking or consuming marijuana in public places, and for developing educational materials on the dangers of marijuana for youth.
“I feel like a guinea pig as a parent, as community members and as a business owner,” Glenwood resident Jacky Gaddis said. “The climate of our town has changed dramatically … and in a negative way.”
The city’s current zoning and licensing rules were adopted in late 2013, just ahead of the January 2014 date when the state of Colorado began allowing retail marijuana sales to those age 21 and older under the voter-approved Amendment 64.
While state regulations apply to all marijuana businesses, local jurisdictions were allowed to write their own zoning and licensing regulations, or to opt out of allowing any businesses within their boundaries.
Glenwood Springs, acknowledging that more than 65 percent of the city’s voters favored Amendment 64, agreed to allow retail sales of marijuana products, as well as cultivation facilities and manufacturing of marijuana edibles.
Certain restrictions do apply, including a required 325-foot separation between retail and medical marijuana businesses, and a 500-foot setback from K-12 schools. Cultivation facilities are also limited to the city’s single industrial zone district on Devereux Road.
Glenwood Springs saw its first retail sales in May of last year, and now has three retail establishments, all associated with what had already been existing medical marijuana dispensaries.
“Unfortunately, we were part of a very large and sometimes flawed experiment,” noted City Councilman Stephen Bershenyi. “There’s no reason in my mind not to revisit what we have done.”
Councilwoman Kathryn Trauger agreed.
“Several towns decided to hold off, but Glenwood forged ahead, and we are pioneers,” she said. “In doing so, we may not have gotten it right the first time around, and we should take another look.”
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