Silt neighbors irked by planned pot grow site
SILT — Carla DeYoung likes to sit on the back patio of her home in the Eagle’s View subdivision with her teen daughter and talk about stars and constellations.
She says she won’t be able to do that anymore if a proposed two-story, 20,000-square-foot marijuana cultivation and manufacturing plant and four 3,000-square-foot greenhouses are allowed to be built in the agriculturally zoned property behind the home she shares with her husband, Don.
“I live at the north end of the subdivision — I’m at ground zero,” Carla DeYoung said. “I’m directly across from it.”
The commercial grow operation would occupy 7.55 acres of what is zoned as “rural/agricultural” land that sits between the Eagle’s View and Stoney Ridge subdivisions.
“This doesn’t fit my description of ag use,” DeYoung said. “Silt has commercial/industrial zoned property along I-70. It doesn’t belong between two subdivisions.”
That is the complaint of all the residents who oppose the project.
“We’re not against pot, we’re saying this is the wrong location,” said Meriya Stickler, whose backyard is 237 feet from the proposed operation. “We voted these people in because we thought they were looking out for our best interests. I know 53 percent of Silt voters voted for (Amendment) 64, but that doesn’t mean (town officials) have free nilly to do whatever they want.”
The residents are also upset about the notification process from the town of Silt. According to Stickler, the town was supposed to send out letters to all homeowners that would be affected by the operation. Stickler said she never got one. And even those who did, didn’t pay attention because notices about the project and a public hearing were sent out just before Christmas.
“Nobody was paying attention then,” Stickler said.
The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the project Dec. 2 and a legal announcement ran on Dec. 18.
Residents are questioning the motives of the town and saying they believe the project is being “pushed through.”
“I kind of feel like it’s a done deal,” Stickler said. “Are these people looking out for the people’s interest or for money? There should be a lot more thought behind this. If this passes, I’m selling my house. I’m not judging others, but it’s not in line with my values. I’m not going to have my children watching TV and looking at a pot manufacturing plant.”
IS TOWN MONEY HUNGRY?
Betty and Shane Ortell live three houses down from the Sticklers.
“These are not the town officials that I elected,” Betty Ortell said. “I expected they would get businesses and tax revenue here, but this was not what I was envisioning. If the town wants to put in something like this, there are better locations than in a residential area.”
Residents’ concerns include light pollution, odor, noise, traffic and decreased air quality.
“That road they want to use is not a good road,” Ortell said. “People have been killed on that road. I don’t think the town of Silt thought this through. I think they got a little money hungry and jumped the gun.”
“This is being pushed through, and we’re pretty upset about it,” DeYoung said. “There’s a lot of questions unanswered.”
The residents have circulated a petition they intend to present to a public hearing scheduled for Monday.
Mayor Rick Aluise did not return calls seeking comment.
Jerry Rusch, president of Rocky Mountain Steel Structures Inc., is aware that residents are upset, but said he is simply the landlord.
“I’ve been working with the town trying to develop this property for years,” Rusch said. “They didn’t approach me to build it, they simply gave High Q my number and referred them to me because High Q was looking for a site. The town didn’t talk me into this.”
If the special use permit is approved for the plant, Rusch said construction would start within a month or so and take about six months to build.
Rusch suggests that people stop into High Q downtown and see the caliber of the business and talk to the owners.
“I know I’m not one of the most popular guys on the planet right now,” he said. “But I’m just the landlord — I’m not the one growing the pot.”
‘THIS IS FARMING’
Renee Grossman, the owner of High Q, and said the company is following rules set by Silt in October to acquire a special use permit for the cultivation and manufacturing operation. High Q applied for a permit Nov. 25, leading to the Planning and Zoning approval.
“It’s all public information and available on the website,” Grossman said. “We were supposed to notify everyone within 500 feet of the operation, but we went beyond that. Notices were also supposed to be sent out 15 days before the Jan. 12 public hearing, but we sent them out on Dec. 22. We mailed them to more people than we needed to because we wanted to be in compliance.”
As far as the plant, she said it will be a quiet facility. There won’t be light pollution coming from the greenhouses, because the whole purpose of a greenhouse is to harness the energy from the sun.
“We’re growing plants — this is farming, we’re growing plants —that’s how we look at it,” Grossman said. “Plants actually absorb C02 and turn it into oxygen.”
As far as the smell, Grossman noted that the site is zoned for agriculture and said the operation will use a filtration system.
The facility will have six employees to start, which may grow to 15 in the future.
Grossman said she understands that people have concerns, and she plans to address them at the town council meeting.
“The whole purpose of a public hearing is for them to come and speak,” she said. “There’s no guarantee we will even get the permit.”
The public hearing will be held at the regular Silt Town Board meeting on Monday, Jan. 12. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. Council will allow 10 people to speak to the High Q application for three minutes apiece.
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