Basalt Town Council flip flops again on marijuana shop buffer
The fate of the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park isn’t the only issue following a path of twists and turns in front of the Basalt Town Council.
The council held its third major discussion and reversed course for the second time this year on a proposal to alter the way the buffer is measured between a school or day-care center and a recreational marijuana store.
In January, the town staff brought a proposal to the council that would require the 500-foot buffer from the actual space within a building where a pot shop was located. The current regulation prohibits a pot shop if any part of a building where it is housed is within the 500-foot buffer. In other words, the town rule is now written so if any of the building is in the buffer, it’s all in. The proposed amendment recognized that the actual pot shop store could be outside the buffer even if other parts of the building were in.
The council was deadlocked 3-3 in the Jan. 27 vote. Councilmen Herschel Ross, Gary Tennenbaum and Bernie Grauer supported the change in method for measuring the buffer. Mayor Jacque Whitsitt and councilmen Rick Stevens and Rob Leavitt were opposed. Councilman Mark Kittle recused himself because of what was considered at the time a possible conflict of interest. It was later determined that Kittle doesn’t have a conflict, so he asked for a reconsideration of the issue. The council voted 4-3 to reconsider, with Kittle joining Tennenbaum, Ross and Grauer.
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The council voted 6-0 on April 14 to adopt the new buffer measurement method with virtually no debate. Stevens was absent for the vote. That was the first of two required readings. It came back to the board Tuesday for a second reading and public hearing.
The proposed change in buffer measurement was opposed by audience members Rob Holmes and Pete Tramm, the owners of Roots Rx, Basalt’s only current recreational marijuana shop. They claimed their opposition wasn’t out of competition.
Holmes said the state of Colorado designed and enforces an extensive set of regulations on marijuana.
“They monitor this product from seed to sale,” he added. “This is one of the most highly regulated businesses.”
One regulation is designed to keep pot shops out of view of school kids, both men said. They questioned why Basalt would change its buffer rules so that a pot shop could be seen from traffic leaving Basalt High School. The buffer change would affect the Basalt Thrift Store building, a portion of which has been scouted by potential pot shop entrepreneurs.
“It is in direct view of the high school. How is that appropriate?” Tramm asked.
He asked if the town was considering changing its code to accommodate a specific business. That’s not fair, Tramm said, because Roots Rx had to find its location while complying with the current buffer rules.
Town Attorney Tom Smith steered talk away from any one site. The public hearing, he said, was about the general legislation.
The issue split the council again. Whitsitt, Leavitt and Tennenbaum voted against changing the buffer measurement method. Kittle, Ross and Grauer supported the change. Stevens abstained, explaining that he missed the April 14 vote on first reading.
Whitsitt said at the meeting that it gives her “ajita” to think the town was reacting to one specific business’ desires. On Wednesday, she said she changed her vote from the April 14 meeting because she learned that a specific business was seeking the change.
“Initially it looked like a solution looking for a problem,” Whitsitt said. She said she ultimately decided she doesn’t see a need for the change. The buffer for alcohol establishments is the same as for pot shops, she noted.
Tennenbaum said at the meeting that he preferred tabling the issue and discussing broader rules, including shielding pot shops from view of school kids. After the vote, he said he still wanted to revisit the issue.
Whitsitt said she will oppose any request to bring the issue back before the board.
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