Residents from the Lower River Road neighborhood breathed a collective sigh of relief Wednesday when the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners denied an application to construct two greenhouse modules and support buildings in their neighborhood.
The original application came before the board in November, but a site visit and continuation of the application made both the applicant and residents against the project wait until Wednesday’s regular board meeting for a decision.
The activity envelope — presented by LAFKLC LLC through Green Essentials Medical, LLC, listed by Ron Radtke — site plan and the request for flexibility for agricultural support all were denied.
“We’ll review everything, but I think it all came out in a very good light today,” said Marty Schlumberger, a Lower River Road resident who has acted as the lead spokesman for the majority of residents in that community. “I think this decision came out in a way the entire community feels about this situation.”
The initial application garnered significant public concern from many of the residents who live near 2520 Lower River Road where the project was proposed. Residents sent letters to the commissioners and local newspapers expressing their desire not to have marijuana greenhouses in their neighborhood.
The request to add 19,000 square feet of greenhouse space was reduced to 9,600 square feet at the county’s recommendation based on scenic issues with having two large greenhouses so close to the Highway 82 corridor.
The applicants followed the county laws and staff recommendations throughout the application process and still could build a greenhouse at the applicant’s location but nowhere near as large as the applicant requested. The applicant and the county figured unofficially that the applicant could build a greenhouse with around 5,000 square feet of floor space without any further county approval.
Now the applicant can only be granted additional square greenhouse footage upon a successful competition for a growth-management quota-system allotment or through transferable development rights upon the commissioners’ approval.
Commissioner Rachel Richards pointed out that no matter what the applicant does with the property, there still would be a separate license required to grow marijuana on the property unless the marijuana is used for personal consumption or if it’s used for patients whom the owner has caretaker status for.
“I think a big part of this discussion is not leading people down a merry path so they’re spending money with consultants and land-use planners and who knows what, when there is a separate license required for what will be grown,” she said. “I’ve heard — loud and clear — from the neighborhood about the concerns here.”
There were questions raised about whether the Lower River Road property was part of the Woody Creek caucus and whether the applicant’s property is being utilized for an existing agricultural operation.
In the end, it seemed all the commissioners heard the overwhelming number of residents who did not want such a visible and now well-known marijuana-growing operation in their neighborhood and all voted “no” on the applicant’s requests.
“When you have an entire neighborhood come together in such a strong opposition, it’s very, very unusual,” Commissioner George Newman said. “For me, it just is an inappropriate place to have a commercial venture of this size. I can’t support this application.”