Basalt pot farm owners propose third party odor investigator |

Basalt pot farm owners propose third party odor investigator

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
The Pitkin County Commissioners went on a tour of the High Valley Farms marijuana greenhouses Sept. 16. They will hold a hearing on extending the operation's license on Wednesday.
Aspen Times file photo |

The owners of a midvalley marijuana greenhouse complex are proposing that an independent third party be appointed to investigate any complaints about odors wafting off its site near Basalt.

High Valley Farms suggested to Pitkin County that a third party could routinely monitor the air for marijuana odor at the greenhouse complex’s property line along Highway 82. High Valley Farms owners Jordan Lewis and Mike Woods agreed to pay for the time required for a county employee or a contractor to monitor the air once a day Monday through Friday.

If a marijuana odor is detected, the third party will try to determine if it is coming from the greenhouse complex. If it is, High Valley Farms will be notified and required to take immediate corrective actions, the proposal to the county said.

“The third party will have full access to the exterior of the (High Valley Farms) facility as necessary to accomplish these duties and objectives,” said the firm’s letter to the county.

An independent odor investigator also would play a key role in handling complaints from neighbors, according to the proposal. High Valley Farms is proposing to set up a dedicated phone line to field complaints about marijuana odors allegedly coming from its site.

“The calls will be routed directly to the county and the third party,” the proposal says. “The third party will visit the … site as soon as reasonably possible to determine if the odor is coming from (the) facility.”

If corrective action is necessary, High Valley Farms wants four business days to complete it. Once it thinks it has solved the problem, the third party would return to review.

Lewis said in the letter that High Valley Farms will have spare parts on site to quickly repair the new carbon-filtration system it is installing at a price of more than $1 million.

The four greenhouses went into operation in March and have spurred numerous complaints from neighbors, particularly residents of Holland Hills. People claim the greenhouses occasionally emit a “skunklike smell.”

The county commissioners have warned Lewis and Woods that they must resolve the issue or their license won’t be renewed. One proposed retrofit to the original system failed to resolve the issue. The partners are convinced the new carbon filters will eliminate odors. The new systems have been installed in two greenhouses. The marijuana plants were cleared out of the remaining two greenhouses until they are fitted with the filtration systems later this month.

The county commissioners toured the site Sept. 16 and will hold a hearing Wednesday. They haven’t had time yet to react to the proposal for a third-party odor investigator. The meeting is scheduled to start at noon in the Aspen City Council Chambers. A change of venue was scheduled to accommodate the anticipated audience.

Some critics of the greenhouse are lobbying the county to make High Valley Farms prove the system is fully operational before extending the license.

High Valley Farms sees the third-party sniffer as a way to ensure it is accountable and that its facility isn’t being blamed for odors that aren’t coming from its site. Members of the facility’s team have suggested in previous hearings that odors could be coming from other sites in and near Holland Hills, where other marijuana is being grown.

“We are 100 percent responsible for any odor that crosses our property line,” Woods said. “We can’t get involved or blamed for neighborhood issues.”

Woods said the filtration system has proven effective in the two greenhouses, so they will press the point that it should be assumed the same system will work with the other two greenhouses.

“It is very important to understand that the business cannot survive with only two greenhouses in operation,” Woods said via email. “The financing for the project is based on all four houses being in production. To delay the start of the cultivation cycle in these two remaining greenhouses, even for a short period of time, will force us out of business.”