Snowmass Village progressing with pot shops but will extend moratorium as rules are set | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass Village progressing with pot shops but will extend moratorium as rules are set

In an effort to buy more time to figure out where pot shops belong in Snowmass, the Town Council on Tuesday agreed to again extend the town's moratorium on marijuana sales.

The purpose of the work session Tuesday evening was for a divided council to review draft two of the town's proposed plan for regulating dispensaries within the village.

While the Town Council has moved in the direction of allowing pot shops since late June, the final green light came at last week's meeting, when the council majority voted against taking the question to voters in the upcoming election. With the deadline to submit ballot language passed, the council's next step is to determine how it wants to regulate the sale of marijuana in Snowmass.

The tone was lighter at Tuesday's work session than last week's pot-related meeting, which at times grew heated. While differences in opinion remain, the council members seemed more agreeable and willing to work together to determine Snowmass' regulatory scheme.

During its first discussion of the framework Aug. 13, Mayor Markey Butler and Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk — both strongly against pot shops in Snowmass Village — asked town staff to incorporate child care and educational facilities zones into the plan.

Consequently, the second draft included "youth location restriction buffers" that would restrict dispensaries from operating "in close proximity to these sensitive areas," the proposal states.

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At the request of Butler and Shenk, town staff also created a zone district overlay that identified Aspen School District bus stops for additional regulatory consideration.

However, the town council majority — Bob Sirkus, Tom Goode and Bill Madsen — on Tuesday voted the school bus stops out of the picture.

A council majority also agreed that it would like to see more restrictions placed on Fanny Hill and along the Skittles gondola route — an area that sees a high volume of children.

Other key points of the proposed regulations to date include a ban on dispensaries along the main pedestrian level of the Snowmass Mall between Daly and Elbert Lane, a 4.5-square-foot cap on a pot shop's main sign, the creation of a new zone-district overlay, maximum operating hours of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and odor enforcement.

To regulate the number of pot shops in Snowmass, Town Manager Clint Kinney said it makes more sense to enforce the distance between dispensaries rather than limit the number of licenses the town distributes. The council is currently exploring 300 square feet to 500 square feet as distances between shops.

Butler said Tuesday that Aspen City Councilwoman Ann Mullins in a recent conversation advised Snowmass to cap the number of dispensaries allowed.

"(Mullins) wishes they would have limited the number of pot shops in Aspen to four versus letting the economy" dictate, Butler said.

Town attorney John Dresser said the staff "is recommending a spatially based scheme … to try and dial in the right density the market will support without getting into picking individual operators."

The elected officials attempted to hash out details such as what type of educational programming Challenge Aspen, located on the upstairs of the Snowmass Mall, provides and whether it should boast its own set of protections from dispensaries.

Further, council members requested the scheme's next iteration include a buffer shielding the Base Village plaza and ice-skating rink.

Dresser agreed to add a 100-, 200- and 300-foot circle around the area to draft three of the framework.

"With these kinds of discussions," Kinney said, "I'm going to be presumptuous and say it's going to be difficult to get the regulations in place before the moratorium ends."

Kinney and Dresser recommended the council extend its moratorium, which was set to expire Oct. 31.

Dispensaries have been under a moratorium in Snowmass Village since 2013, after Colorado voters approved recreational pot sales in November 2012.

Along with prolonging the moratorium on Tuesday, Dresser advised the council on more than one occasion to craft the scheme based on the "broader picture" and not by seeking to predict what commercial owners may develop in the future or to which businesses they will lease.

As part of the two-reading ordinance process, the Town Council will vote to extend the moratorium on first reading at Monday's meeting.

A moratorium can be set for any amount of time. Butler proposed an extension of three to six months, to which Goode countered, "I think we're stalling with six months."

Without a consensus Tuesday, the council will decide Monday the amount of time Snowmass' moratorium should continue.

erobbie@aspentimes.com

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