Holland Hills residents: Marijuana greenhouse stinks up neighborhood
Skunk-like odors wafting from a Basalt-area marijuana cultivation facility have upset nearby neighbors and caused county commissioners to issue a stern warning to the proprietors behind the stench.
At a Pitkin County commissioners meeting Wednesday, residents said the smell is negatively affecting their quality of life, and their understanding was there would be no odor when commissioners approved the High Valley Farms facility, which includes a 20,000-square-foot grow house and 5,000-square-foot office building, in August 2013. The grow center opened last year.
“When you step outside, it’s like you’re stepping into a bag of weed,” said resident Bart Axelman, saying he’s “in no way opposed” to the industry in which High Valley is engaged. “Six months ago our neighborhood smelled like a neighborhood, and now it smells like someone is holding up a package of marijuana to your face.”
The neighbors, including Axelman, primarily came from the Holland Hills subdivision, which is across Highway 82 from the High Valley Farms greenhouse, which supplies its products to Silverpeak Apothecary’s medical and recreational dispensaries in Aspen. High Valley and Silverpeak have common ownership, as well.
The residents appeared at the hearing that initially wasn’t about the smell of cannabis. Commissioners ultimately approved, in a 4-0 vote, an application by High Valley to add a fenced-in area of approximately 5,000 square feet, which would be used for shredding and chipping marijuana branches, leaves, roots and stalks. Waste Management would collect the THC-free leftovers, said Mike Woods, chief operating officer of Silverpeak and High Valley.
Woods assured commissioners that the outdoor waste work wouldn’t create more odor and that steps are being done to eliminate the current stench.
“We are going to manage the odors there, and we don’t want people to have a neighborhood that’s any different than the neighborhood they moved into,” he said. “We’re committed to making it work. We have a lot of investment in it.”
Commissioners cautioned Woods to fix the problem or the farm’s license will be in jeopardy when it’s up for annual renewal in September. They also expressed disappointment that assurances were made that there were be no smell, one of the conditions of the board’s approval of the facility.
“If you cannot mitigate this, I will not be supporting renewal of your license,” Commissioner George Newman told Woods.
Commissioner Rachel Richards added, “This is a high standard, and you’re going to be held to it in September.”
Commissioners Steve Child and Michael Owsley also said the license renewal will hinge, in part, on whether the smells are snuffed out.
“What I hear from the applicant (Woods) is that there will be no further odor impacts, so that’s on the record now,” Owsley said.
Three longtime Holland Hills residents, David Lambert and Dee and Kent Schuler, said the stink has become intolerable.
“The smell is already disgusting and nauseating,” Dee Schuler said, adding that “I thought there was something wrong with our septic tank. Something needs to be done to eliminate the nauseating odor now.”
Lambert encouraged the elected officials to smell for themselves. “I would like the county commissioners to drive by the facilities first with their windows closed, then roll them down. It’s pretty significant.”
The smell hasn’t made its way to the Elk Run area of Basalt, which is east of the greenhouse, said resident Patrick McAllister.
“In the end, we don’t want to smell it, and we don’t want that impact coming down our highway,” he said.
Woods said High Valley Farms is nearing full production. He told the residents he appreciated their complaints and will get to work.
“I’m glad everyone came forward, and I want you to know that we are working on it,” he said. “As we’re getting our systems up to speed, we’re finding out how they work, and there’s a lot of fine tuning in the odor suppression part.”
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