Glenwood Springs won’t expand pot growing zones, for now

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — City Council is not inclined to expand the potential for marijuana cultivation beyond the city’s single industrial zone along Devereux Road, at least not until the new retail industry establishes itself.

“I agree it’s much easier to start narrow, and broaden out later,” Mayor Leo McKinney said, echoing the sentiments of other council members and city planning staff, which had reservations about considering the city’s commercial C-3 zone for marijuana cultivation as a special-use review.

Council approved two ordinances on first reading Thursday, paving the way for retail marijuana businesses to become licensed and operate within city limits after Jan. 1, 2014, as provided under Colorado’s Amendment 64.

One establishes zoning requirements for recreational marijuana operations, limiting retail stores, product manufacturing and testing facilities to Glenwood Springs commercial zone districts, and restricting cultivation to the I-2 “River Industrial” zone.

Also approved was an ordinance establishing a 500-foot setback between retail marijuana businesses and schools, as well as 325 feet between marijuana-related businesses.

Council decided not to revisit the question of expanding the school setback to 1,000 feet, as requested by the Roaring Fork Re-1 school board recently. That request came after council had already debated the issue, and the ordinance was already being drafted.

The more lenient setback was meant to allow existing medical marijuana businesses in the downtown core area, which are within 1,000 feet of a school, to expand into the retail market if they choose.

Amendment 64, approved by Colorado voters last year, made it legal for adults age 21 and older to possess, grow and purchase limited amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes.

Both city ordinances passed on a 6-1 vote, with Councilman Dave Sturges maintaining his opposition.

“I support the law as it was passed by the voters,” Sturges said, noting that a convincing majority of Glenwood Springs voters favored Amendment 64.

“I do remain very concerned and not convinced about the potential exposure to younger people and students,” he said. “That’s not a reflection on the responsible people who have gone into business, and are trying to operate as legally and ethically as they can.”

Sturges and other council members also said that state voter approval of Proposition AA in the Nov. 5 election, imposing a 10 percent sales and 15 percent excise tax on retail marijuana to pay for state regulation of the industry, made the city’s own regulation of the industry easier to accept.

A portion of the state sales taxes is to be directed to cities and counties that allow retail marijuana sales, in order to help pay for local regulation of the industry.

Glenwood Springs’ new retail marijuana regulations will be up for a second reading at the regular Nov. 21 City Council meeting.

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