Pot shops in Parachute?
PARACHUTE — Less than one year after Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 in 2012, Parachute Town Trustees unanimously moved to prohibit marijuana cultivation, testing, manufacturing and retail establishments. Now, with the town experiencing a nearly 30 percent decrease in sales tax revenue, trustees are expected to consider a series of ordinances laying the groundwork for bringing the marijuana industry to Parachute.
The board directed staff to prepare the ordinances for its June meeting during a work session Thursday. Most of the few people in attendance were business owners advocating in favor of allowing marijuana establishments. They asked trustees to consider the potential for increased revenue and traffic in the town.
Current revenue trends have the town on course to collect $752,115 in sales tax revenue in 2015 — 29 percent less than in 2014, according to an updated financial report. Forecasts by industry experts project another two years, at least, before the energy sector starts to bounce back, Town Manager Stuart McArthur told the trustees. While the town is working on a strategic economic development plan, any large-scale projects — such as recruiting a supermarket to the town — would take several years to get off the ground.
“We need something we can do now,” McArthur said after the meeting, adding that while he is morally opposed to recreational marijuana use, the businesses could bring substantial and immediate economic benefits.
Four companies have expressed interest in Parachute, including Green Cross Colorado, which has a grow facility in Rifle as well as facilities in Denver. The company, which presented its plans during the work session, hopes to establish a facility that would include a retail store, manufacturing kitchen and grow house.
After driving up and down Interstate 70, it became very apparent that Parachute was the best location for a future facility, said Mark Smith, of Green Cross Colorado, He cited the town’s visibility from the interstate and a ready to work labor pool as two of the reasons for the company’s desire to locate in Parachute. Smith said he sees the potential for strong growth that could benefit both the company and the town.
“Very” conservative numbers presented during the work session estimate $31,500 in first-year sales tax revenue, with projected growth each year in the facility’s first five years of business. The goal is to make a profit, but the company would be open to negotiating an added tax, if the town would want to pursue that, Smith said.
Additionally, Green Cross Colorado expects the planned Parachute facility to create 27 full time positions paying anywhere from $12-$22 per hour, plus benefits, according to information provided the town.
Those numbers grabbed the trustees’ attention, and while there was no official vote, all the trustees present appeared supportive of having staff draft ordinances for them to consider in June. Whether they will support a reversal of the existing ban remains to be seen.
For Trustee Tom Rugaard, the issue is both a personal and sensitive one. Drug abuse, he said during the work session, is why “I’m raising my boys by myself.” Afterwards, Rugaard said he was still trying to weigh the economic aspect against the “moral issues,” adding that the “door is open.”
Mayor Roy McClung was forced to square the two issues after his daughter asked him how he would vote. While McClung said he opposes it morally, the town is facing a critical financial situation and something must be done to inject more money into the local economy.
“Morally I’m not in favor of it,” McClung said, “but I’ve been elected to represent the people and I have to do what I believe is best for the town.”
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Between Thursday and Saturday morning, local law enforcement arrested nine people accused of soliciting children for sex as part of a sting operation.