Pot shops positioned to be legal in Snowmass on May 1, Town Council OKs regulations

Erica Robbie
Snowmass Sun

After talking pot at the town level for more than five-and-a-half years, on May 1 dispensaries will be legal in Snowmass Village.

Snowmass Town Council on Monday unanimously approved on first reading the ordinance allowing pot shops as well as the town’s carefully crafted set of regulations.

The town of Snowmass first posed its moratorium on marijuana establishments in September 2013, after Colorado voters approved recreational pot sales in November 2012.

Council has since extended the moratorium three times, in an effort to buy more time to determine if pot shops belong in the family-friendly village — a point of contention within the community and town government.

The town of Snowmass last prolonged its moratorium in September, running through April 30.

“I’m really conflicted, personally, but I’ll vote with my colleagues,” Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler, a staunch adversary of pots shops in town, said at the meeting of the ordinance and framework. Town councilman Alyssa Shenk, who also is opposed to dispensaries in Snowmass, agreed and followed the mayor’s direction.

With a remaining council majority in favor of allowing pot shops in Snowmass, Shenk said it was a dead-end.

“It’s not a dead-end, it’s a new beginning,” Councilman Bill Madsen countered.

The town’s regulatory scheme is the product of several hours of deliberation among Town Council and staff. Council on Monday weeded through each section of the document, which the town first started working on in August, with a fine-tooth comb.

Dispensaries will be allowed to operate within certain spaces, as additional zoning restrictions are in place, on the second floor of the Snowmass Center and Snowmass Mall.

As part of those regulations, pot shops cannot operate within 300 feet of another dispensary or 300 feet of a childcare facility. A retail marijuana establishment also cannot exist within 200 feet of the Skittles route on Fanny Hill or 100 feet from the edges of Snowmass Ski Area.

Council members hope the zoning restrictions will organically cap the number of dispensaries in Snowmass, as town attorney John Dresser has repeatedly advised against posing a numerical limit.

The elected officials on Monday also looked further into regulating pot shop signs, with Butler and Shenk in favor of prohibiting signage from facing Carriage Way and/or Brush Creek Road.

Council did not land on any specifics as it relates to these areas, town spokesman Travis Elliot confirmed after the meeting, and instead requested “added restrictions to the signage in general,” which Dresser will draft for review at second reading.

Also at the meeting Monday, Town Council decided it would comprise and serve as the town’s marijuana licensing authority.

Because Town Council is the group “bringing this forward,” Madsen rationed, it should be responsible for vetting applicants and prospective business owners.

Per Colorado law, an applicant must already obtain a lease in order to receive a license. Council members have indicated at previous meetings a strong preference toward local operators and ownership.

Andrew Wickes of Sundance Liquor & Gifts shop, which his parents opened at the Snowmass Center in 1979, told the Sun he is seeking a commercial space in order to apply for a retail-marijuana license.

Wickes works as operational manager at Sundance and regularly attends the Town Council’s marijuana-related meetings.

“I’m just hoping that whoever fills the tenant spaces for these marijuana shops really respects the Snowmass community of locals and visitors alike,” Wickes told the Sun on Tuesday. “It’s important that it’s done professionally, responsibly and upholds Snowmass’ character. And that’s one niche that I’m hoping to fill.”

The total revenue that the town expects marijuana sales in Snowmass to generate from all taxes — including an added five percent sales tax that voters overwhelmingly (70 percent) approved in November — ranges from $194,967 to $584,900 annually.

The state levies a 15 percent excise tax and 10 percent sales on recreational marijuana across all of its jurisdictions and some municipalities tack on an additional sales tax of as much as 5 percent. The city of Aspen does not levy an added tax.

Altogether, the town projects that pot shops would sell between $1.9 million and $5.8 million in Snowmass Village.

From a state perspective, Snowmass Village is among a small handful of municipalities with a moratorium on marijuana.

Colorado voters approved recreational marijuana sales in November 2012, and Snowmass Village voted 989-385 in favor of passing pot, according to election results from Pitkin County.

A second reading of the marijuana ordinance is scheduled at the Town Council meeting March 18.