The Sopris Sun

Emergency marijuana moratorium ordinance fails 4-2

By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

There is not yet a moratorium on new cannabis-related businesses in Carbondale, but the town’s Board of Trustees is likely to take another look at the idea in April, as a way of working to alleviate what some have referred to as the town’s “marijuana ghetto” in the neighborhood of Village Road and Buggy Circle.

A proposed “emergency moratorium,” proposed by Trustee Allyn Harvey, was on the agenda of a March 16 special meeting of the trustees (after The Sopris Sun went to press), at which the town also gave formal approval to subdivision plans and other details concerning the Carbondale Marketplace project, where a new, larger City Market grocery store is to be built.

An emergency moratorium, which would take effect immediately after being approved by the trustees, requires favorable votes by a “supermajority” of five out of the seven trustees.

This one, however, fell short, as trustees Pamela Zentmyer and John Hoffmann voted against the idea.

Mayor Stacey Bernot and Trustees A.J. Hobbs, Katrina Byars, and Harvey voted to enact the moratorium. Trustee Frosty Merriott left the meeting at about 9 p.m. and did not vote.

The idea first arose at a March 9 meeting of the board, broached by three owners of businesses in the professional building at 1101 Village Road, where three marijuana-related operations are located — a retail store, a marijuana-infused product manufacturer and a quality-control lab — according to statements by Harvey.

There also are two cannabis cultivation operations in the immediate neighborhood, Harvey told the Sopris Sun, and a combined retail/medical marijuana shop across Buggy Circle in another building.

The business owners came to the trustee meeting to repeat previously-voiced complaints that the smell emanating from the pot shops all around them was a problem for them and for their customers.

Harvey decided to propose the moratorium, he said, because he understood the business owners’ distress and thought the town should do something to relieve the situation, particularly since there is general agreement among the trustees that the town created the “ghetto” in the first place through its regulatory decisions.

A moratorium, Harvey reasoned, would allow the trustees to “really just have a little bit of breathing time.”

But while three of his fellow trustees agreed with his reasoning, Hoffmann and Zentmyer felt obliged to vote against the idea.

“I just don’t think that this route is all that effective,” said Zentmyer, pointing out that the town is close to having allowed the maximum number of businesses in each of its seven categories of marijuana-related businesses, has instituted a rule mandating 400 feet between retail pot shops on Main Street and between cultivation operations anywhere in town, and other factors aimed at regulating the legalized marijuana business without overly restricting it.

She said she would be in favor of a moratorium that expanded the 400-foot rule’s application, but not the moratorium as proposed.

Byars, while not completely opposed to the moratorium, nevertheless said that she was concerned that the proposed moratorium would not specifically address the odor issues at 1101 Village Road.

“A whole-town moratorium and ordinance, to deal with a problem in a single building, it doesn’t feel direct or specific enough,” she remarked. “We’re sort of using the shotgun where we need to hone in on this specific problem.”

Hoffmann, who was relatively silent during the discussion of the moratorium, noted that if the goal was to solve the problem at the professional building, one place to start would be to conduct “blower-door” tests on the cannabis-related businesses to make sure the buildings were properly sealed to keep in the odors.

Harvey commented that the issue is of town-wide concern, in that dealing with just the Village Road and Buggy Circle issues might lead to similar concentrations of cannabis-related businesses in other parts of town.

Plus, he said, there are indications that another cultivation operation is poised to start operating near the Buggy Works car wash, which also is on Buggy Circle.

After the moratorium failed to win approval, he suggested the trustees may want to consider establishing a moratorium just for the Village Road/Buggy Circle area.

In other action the trustees:

• Agreed to a $5,000 grant to the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce for costs associated with the Ride The Rockies bicycle tour, which this year (for the first time in the tour’s 31-year history) begins in Carbondale in early June;

• Gave formal approval to subdivision, site plan and a subdivision improvements agreement for the Carbondale Marketplace (City Market) project, planned for a site to the northwest of the intersection of Main Street and Highway 133.

Published in The Sopris Sun on March 24, 2016.