Snowmass Village pot shop forms reviewed, OK’d after lengthy meeting; 11 vying for 1 shop in mall

This second-floor location on the Snowmass Mall likely will be the site for Snowmass Village's first marijuana store. A lease has been secured and now the owners of High Q are working on their state approval, then will go to the Snowmass marijuana authority.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times

Scrutiny of the new Snowmass Village applications for those interested in opening a retail marijuana store went on for more than two hours at this month’s licensing authority meeting, and the upshot is don’t expect to see a store open before ski season.

The village’s Local Marijuana Licensing Authority, which is made up of the five Town Council members and chaired by Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk, met May 21 to review the final wording of the ordinance and applications. The proposed process drew criticism and concern from local attorney Lauren Maytin, who has been working in the cannabis field since the late 1990s, and objection from a potential shop owner.

Their biggest issue, they said, is Snowmass will have potential owners first get conditional approval from the state, then go through the Snowmass process. There is a state step before its approval known as application completed, and that shows the owners are serious and have their state paperwork in line.

Many towns will use the completed state application as confirmation on intention and allow them to start the local process. Snowmass will not allow its process to run concurrently.

Part of the problem with that timeline, critics said, is that the state wants a lease in hand and the state approval can take 45 to 90 days, sometimes longer. Then, the applicant would go through the Snowmass process. During the application period, the potential owners would be paying a lease for a store that’s not open yet (and could be denied), and they are waiting on most of the lengthy remodeling that would be involved.

“It’s a very expensive proposition, and at which time nearly six months could pass. Of which they could be paying $10,000 a month rent. That’s a lot of money lost,” Maytin said. “The rule and regulation set up now is one that will provide an incredibly lengthy period of approval, instead of things happening at the same time.”

Maytin said her experience is that most Colorado municipalities accept a completed application acknowledged by the state as a way to start the local process.

However, the Snowmass authority was firm at the meeting that it wants the state application to be conditionally approved before applicants come to the town for approval.

Given that timeline, Maytin and a representative from another interested marijuana party said it is unlikely that a shop would be open in Snowmass before the next winter.

“It’s not up to us to get these businesses open by ski season,” Shenk said. “Sorry, I just don’t think it is.”

The authority could have sent the ordinance, which was approved in March, back to Town Council to amend the language to say the applications could run concurrently. The authority rejected that idea and kept the ordinance language as is.

There currently are two places in Snowmass that meet the zoning requirements for a pot shop: one in the Snowmass Mall and one in the Town Center.

The most prominent location for a pot shop is the old Hideaway restaurant on the second level of the mall. A request for proposal has been put out by the Romero Group, which owns the space. Dwayne Romero said May 28 they received 11 RFPs and “we have selected a candidate and are doing the leasing work.”

He said they are aware of the language in the ordinance and said that while it is a time delay, it is not a “deal-breaker by any means.”

He did not see another spot in the part of the mall that he owns where another shop could go in.

A spot could be available near the Westin, but it depends on if it would be far enough away from the child care center at the hotel, Mayor Markey Butler said after the May 21 meeting.

The Town Center currently is under review by Town Council for a major expansion and remodel in the coming years.

As the authority meeting hit the two-hour mark, town officials became more frustrated and an emotional Maytin accused the authority of attacking her and her objections to some of the wording in the forms and the rules.

“I love this town. I’m doing this out of the goodness of my heart and you’re acting like I am an adversary. I’m in partnership with you to try to make a good business for our town,” Maytin said. Who added later: “I’m sorry, but I’m feeling a little attacked.”

Town manager Clint Kinney said the challenge is the newness of the process and there is a lot to it. They are proceeding with “an abundance of caution.”

“We are trying to create a process. This is our first shot out. It is not perfect. We understand that,” Kinney said. “We took a system that we thought was really good. And we’re saying ‘here’s the best we got. Let us run with it. Here are eight forms that we think are going to get us out of the box.’”

The staff will amend the documents, and there is not a date yet scheduled for the next authority meeting.