Making way for marijuana in Snowmass Village
The Aspen Times
As the conversation of Snowmass Village and pot shops progresses, one major question that continues to arise is where a dispensary would operate within the village.
With a marijuana sales tax ballot question in the works, a town sentiment that dispensaries should be restricted to second-tier spaces, a recent change in hands at one of Snowmass’ main commercial nodes, a significant redevelopment planned for another and a moratorium on recreational marijuana that will expire Oct. 31, the question is as prevalent as ever.
Interviews with the owners and operators of Snowmass’ three commercial developments reveal that residents and visitors may expect to find a pot shop or two somewhere at the Snowmass Center or mall — but not down at Base Village — in the future.
Jordan Sarick of Eastwood Snowmass Investors, which owns the nearly 50-year-old Snowmass Center, said July 31 that the company “respects whatever the community and town wants.”
“If there is any kind of space between what the town’s policy is and what the community view is, then we’ll try to balance that,” said Sarick, noting, “We’re also in the business of providing services.”
Sarick also said that “a number of (valley-wide) retailers who are interested in operating a pot shop” at the Snowmass Center have contacted him.
One interested retailer is longtime Snowmass Village resident and business owner Reed Lewis. Lewis said on Aug. 7 that he is “very interested in pursuing the opportunity to provide that service to our residents and guests.”
Grain Fine Food — the food component inside Lewis’ longstanding Daly Bottle Shop along the Snowmass Mall — already sells a few cannabinoid products.
As for the mall, Dwayne Romero of The Romero Group, which purchased the bulk of the development in late June for $28.5 million, said, “We’ve been asked this several times, and it’s fair to say we are kind of taking it slow.”
The Romero Group owns the area from Fuel Cafe at the mall entrance to Gorsuch and Christy Sports, totaling 80,000 square feet.
Prefacing that, “It’s not our No. 1 focus,” Romero said if the town lifts its moratorium on marijuana and a business is interested in operating a dispensary, his group would “closely monitor that.”
Romero said he also tends to agree with “ensuring that (a pot shop) is in a secondary space, that it’s not prime retail location (and) that it’s discrete” — a notion discussed by Town Council following a recommendation from Snowmass’ marketing, group sales and special events advisory board.
The marketing board’s consensus at a meeting April 19 was that dispensaries located quietly, off the beaten path with modest publicity would not taint Snowmass’ family-friendly reputation.
Aspen Skiing Co. chief marketing officer and board member Christian Knapp was the sole dissenting vote in advising council to move forward with marijuana.
Skico, a part owner of Base Village, does not have a position on the issue, spokesman Jeff Hanle said Aug. 1.
At the marketing board meeting, Knapp said, “We don’t think that the arrival of marijuana dispensaries in Aspen (has) been that bad, in terms of perception and all of that, but we do believe that the family-friendliness of Snowmass is a differentiator.
“It is a hallmark of this brand and we think it’s a really important feature aspect of this destination, in particular, of all our resorts.”
Knapp agreed with the board that if the town allows pot shops, they should be out-of-site and off the ground level “so that kids running around the village in a safe environment aren’t stumbling into a dispensary.”
At what soon will be the largest commercial development in Snowmass, East West managing partner Andy Gunion said Base Village is “not interested” in leasing any spaces to dispensaries.
“What we think Base Village is about is families first, and we just don’t think that’s the right fit for that type of environment here,” Gunion said Aug. 6. “Our retail space is somewhat limited (and) we have more ideas already than we actually have spaces for.”
Those ideas include various food and beverage operations, an ice cream or candy shop and a few “upscale retail offerings,” he said.
“It’s a constant point of discussion figuring out exactly what the right mix (of retailers) is,” Gunion said.
For now, what’s certain is that Base Village and pot shops will not mix.
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Nearly 20 Snowmass Village employers will look for staff at Wednesday job fair in the Base Village conference center.