Snowmass Town Council reviews regulations for pot shops, mayor no longer combating them | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass Town Council reviews regulations for pot shops, mayor no longer combating them

Marijuana is displayed at the River Rock dispensary in Denver.

Although still adamant that pot shops and the village do not mix, Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler said she is done advocating for a town vote on the matter.

"I've tried three times now," a defeated Butler said to the Snowmass Sun after a Town Council work session Aug. 13.

The purpose of the work session was for council to review the draft framework, prepared by town staff, regulating dispensaries in Snowmass Village.

Among the plan's proposals are the creation of a new zone-district overlay, a minimum 300-foot distance between pot shops, maximum operating hours of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., odor enforcement and restrictions on advertising and signage.

Staff reiterated that the framework is a first draft and encouraged suggestions from the council. The council at a meeting June 18 voted 3-2 to direct staff to develop the framework allowing pot shops. Butler and town councilwoman Alyssa Shenk were the dissenting votes.

At three town meetings following the June vote, Butler urged her fellow councilors to reconsider its motion and argued that the question should go to voters in the November election. The mayor's case each time was a moot point, however, as the positions of the three council members who voted in favor of the framework remained the same.

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"I looked at (the marketing advisory board's recommendation), I looked at the Financial Advisory Board's recommendation, I looked at the police department comments, I looked at the (2012 Pitkin County) vote, I looked at the (community) survey, and I frankly felt it wasn't necessary to have a vote," town councilman Bob Sirkus said before the Aug. 13 work session. "I felt that that was just an effort to delay, if you will, the inevitable. And that's where I land."

Snowmass Village in 2012 voted 989-385 in favor of passing pot, according to results from Pitkin County.

The council in the spring asked the town's marketing, group sales and special events advisory board if dispensaries would hurt the resort's family-friendly image. In a 5 to 1 vote April 19, the board advised the council to allow retail and medical facilities "as long as they are well-regulated and in inconspicuous locations." The consensus among the board was that pot shops, if located off-the-beaten-path with modest publicity, would not taint the town's reputation as a wholesome destination.

Butler at the work session Aug. 13 questioned the proposed framework's restrictions on signage, which states: "Marijuana establishments will be limited to no more than two signs: One sign on the door of the establishment with a maximum size of two square feet, and one other sign to be located in or on the windows, roof or walls of the establishment, or on the premises, with a maximum size of 10 square feet."

"I don't think that's discrete," the mayor said.

Despite the marketing board's blessing, Butler said after the work session that damaging Snowmass' family-oriented brand is still of concern to her.

"A lot of our families come from Texas, Michigan, Illinois (and) Georgia," Butler said. "So when you look at where our families come from, what are families looking for? Do they want an introduction of marijuana?"

The elected officials at the Aug. 13 work session also discussed what each considered an appropriate distance between marijuana businesses, with a range of 300 feet to 500 feet deliberated.

Town Manager Clint Kinney explained that it makes more sense to regulate the number of pots shops in Snowmass by distance than by controlling the number of licenses the town distributes.

In the next draft of the proposed framework, Butler and Shenk said they would like to see Snowmass' "educational facilities" incorporated.

Specifically, they looked to Treehouse Kids' Adventure Center, Anderson Ranch Arts Center and Challenge Aspen as organizations with child programming that should be considered as part of the regulatory plan.

Shenk and Butler also advised that the framework ban dispensaries from the main level of any commercial developments.

"I'm not supportive of anything on the Main Street," Butler said.

Staff agreed to incorporate the elected officials' input, including details on location, proximity and educational facilities, into the framework for the council to review at its next work session.

That date is to be determined, however, as town council canceled its next work session (Sept. 10) because it fell over the Rosh Hashanah holiday, Kinney said.

Marijuana establishments have been under a moratorium in Snowmass Village since 2013, after Colorado voters approved recreational pot sales in November 2012. The moratorium, which the town extended in February 2017, will expire Oct. 31.

If Snowmass does not reach a resolution on the regulatory framework before Oct. 31, it will need to extend its moratorium a third time, Kinney said. Moratoriums may be set or extended for any period of time, he said.

While Snowmass voters to date will not be asked if they want pot shops, they do get to decide if the town should pose an additional 5 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana.

The ballot question will ask the electorate if Snowmass Village should implement an added tax on the sale of retail marijuana and respective products, which town staff believes would generate between $194,967 and $584,900 annually.

The deadline to submit ballot language to the Pitkin County clerk is Sept. 7.

erobbie@aspentimes.com

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