Silt marijuana fight grows more heated | PostIndependent.com

Silt marijuana fight grows more heated

Heidi Rice
hrice@citizentelegram.com

SILT — The fight over growing marijuana in Silt has intensified, with a residents group that blocked a proposed grow site earlier this week vowing on its Facebook page to stop such an operation anywhere in town and posting that the operator of the business "only cares about herself and her money."

Meanwhile, a longtime local businessman who had proposed a second grow site that also was rejected Monday by the Town Council blamed the vote on "the residuals from the lynch mob."

A special use permit application by High Q LLC for a marijuana cultivation and manufacturing plant near the Eagle's View and Stoney Ridge subdivisions was unanimously turned down by trustees Monday after about 200 people showed up to oppose the plan.

The second permit for a cultivation facility was rejected 4-3 after the hearing for High Q.

Doug Stahl and Marco Dehm, managing members of Aurum Peak LLC who for the last 13 years have operated a cabinet shop, Eurostyle Woodworking, were seeking to open a cultivation facility at their shop on Front Street.

"Our application was 100 percent compliant," Stahl said Thursday. "We notified everyone within 650 feet and only one person showed up to speak at our hearing. And he was in favor of it. I think we caught the residuals from the lynch mob."

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Both applications for High Q and Aurum Peak had been approved by the town's planning and zoning commission, which acts as an advisory board to the trustees.

Renee Grossman, owner of High Q, which has a retail marijuana shop on Main Street, is frustrated with town government, saying officials pointed her in one direction and then voted in another, but said she planned to look for another site.

The neighborhood group that opposed the High Q application has a Facebook page called "Silt Thumbs-down commercial marijuana grow & manufacturing proposal" and posted the following comment Thursday morning:

Grossman "has already visited at least one other parcel in Silt for her grow operation and manufacturing plant. Currently we are reorganizing to stop this from happening to any of our neighbors."

The opponents' Facebook page also had a post showing a New York address for Grossman, which she said was outdated.

"I just read the Facebook post and I would like to clarify that I have been a resident of Silt for the past 5 1/2 years, I own property here and a business," she told the PI on Thursday. "I haven't lived in New York since 2011. I'm very disconcerted that these neighbors are attacking me personally. Throughout this process, we've been very respectful of everyone."

Grossman said that High Q is looking at other sites, but has not yet looked at property in Silt.

"We're looking at a lot of locations and a number of people have come into the shop offering to sell us some property," Grossman said.

Grossman said she still needs to get some clarification from the town.

"We need to know if they even plan to permit [marijuana grow facilities] or whether it was just the location they did not like," she said. "But they do have ordinances that say its permitted."

Mayor Rick Aluise said he gave extra weight to the fact that those who opposed the site were neighbors.

An opponent who declined to be named also would not say who was posting on the Facebook page, but said people are angry. The resident said that the issue had moved from a dispute about High Q's proposal to whether Silt wants marijuana grown in town at all and that the resident group had grown to 480 members.

Getting past the public hearing portion of a special use permit is the most challenging part of the process, according to Lauren Maytin, an Aspen attorney with Edson, Maytin & Matz who also sits on the board of directors of Colorado NORML — the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. NORML is a nonprofit lobbying organization that worked to legalize marijuana in Colorado, stop arrests of users, provide educational research and legal information on marijuana.

"Neighborhoods have been a huge factor where municipalities permit heavily," Maytin said. "The biggest hurdle for every plant is the enormous amount of misinformation out there. People think it brings in seedy people or migrant workers."

Maytin pointed out that the people of Colorado, including Silt, overwhelmingly passed Amendment 64 legalizing marijuana, and now the sellers of marijuana need to have a place to grow it.

"Having voted in favor of the industry, it's one of the necessary evils that comes with it," Maytin said.

Grossman said High Q currently gets its marijuana from several growers in Denver.

"It would be a lot less expensive to grow our own, and we have certain processes to ensure we have a superior product that is organic and pesticide-free. It would also allow us to lower our prices."

But for now, Grossman said High Q is "kind of regrouping. We're just taking a couple of days to catch our breath."