Chamber, library file joint appeal of pot shop OK

A map of downtown Glenwood Springs shows the location of the newly approved Kind Castle retail marijuana shop in green at 818 Grand Ave., in relation to the three existing retail and medical shops (GNS is medical only) in blue, and the two locations that were denied earlier this year in red.
Will Grandbois / Post Independent | Post Independent

The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and Garfield County Public Library District have teamed up to appeal the recent city decision to grant a license for a new downtown marijuana shop.

The chamber and library boards on Friday issued an appeal to Glenwood Springs City Council regarding license hearing officer Angela Roff’s Oct. 9 decision to approve the Kind Castle retail marijuana store at 818 Grand Ave.

Calling the 800 block of downtown “the educational and informational heart of Glenwood Springs,” the organizations argued that a marijuana shop is not in keeping with the “family-oriented” nature of that part of downtown.

Home to institutions such as the Glenwood Springs Branch Library at Eighth and Cooper, Colorado Mountain College and chamber Visitor’s Center at Eighth and Grand, and the Forest Service headquarters at Ninth and Grand, a retail marijuana shop seems out of place, they said in their appeal letter to City Council.

The library in particular, “strives to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all members of our community,” the letter states.

An outdoor plaza on the south side of the library building “is a vital part of the library’s physical location in downtown Glenwood Springs,” it said.

Former Library District Director Amelia Shelley testified at the Sept. 9 licensing hearing against the Kind Castle application, primarily because of its location directly across the alley from the library plaza.

“The proximity of the plaza to the potential retail marijuana store presents serious concerns about the ability of the library to provide a safe and incident-free environment for library users,” the letter concludes.

Roff’s decision regarding the Kind Castle came as a surprise to some following her denial of licenses for two other downtown marijuana shop locations earlier this year.

Those denials, for the Green Dragon retail store and edibles kitchen at 919 Grand Ave., and the Recreational Releaf Dispensary at 404 10th St., were upheld on appeal by City Council in early July.

Roff based her most recent decision in part on the relative lack of opposition expressed at the Sept. 9 hearing to the Kind Castle as compared to the previous hearings.

One other license request that was heard that day, for the planned Osiris LLC cultivation, infused products manufacturing and retail store on Devereux Road, was also approved by Roff.

The chamber and library did not include the license approval for that operation in their appeal, only the downtown shop location.

“The public may not have come out in droves against this application, but the immense public outcry earlier this year should have set precedence and carried weight in future decisions,” their appeal states.

The downtown shop’s potential impact on tourism was also a major factor in filing the appeal.

“We understand that this is a complicated subject involving the will of the voters to legalize recreational marijuana, marketplace fairness and free enterprise, the unexpected consequences of marijuana legalization, and the public … perception of Glenwood Springs,” the appeal letter states.

“Glenwood Springs has been a tourist-friendly town, but the perception of town as the ‘most fun town in America’ … is changing due to the proliferation of retail marijuana outlets in our downtown core,” it states in reference to the 2011 Rand McNally/USA Today’s “Most Fun Town” designation.

The Kind Castle and Osiris applications were the last of five applications that were still pending under the city’s old marijuana licensing rules before City Council in August revised its marijuana licensing and land-use ordinances.

The former rules allow for a written appeal of the licensing officer’s decisions within 10 days, which will be Monday. City Council is required to hear the appeal at its next regularly scheduled meeting, which will be Nov. 5.

Last May, City Council imposed a 90-day moratorium on new license requests. It later decided to do away with the hearing officer process for new applications, requiring all new requests to come before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and ultimately City Council for a final decision.

The city also now requires 900 feet of separation between marijuana businesses, rather than 325 feet under the former rules.

If it goes forward, the Kind Castle would come in under the old rules as a pre-existing, non-conforming use because the 818 Grand location is within 900 feet of the Green Joint marijuana store located at 11th and Grand.