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Hotchkiss council approves marijuana ballot language

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The Hotchkiss Town Council doesn't have to address all the issues related to the upcoming vote on cannabis unless voters approve in-town operations in the April election. But trustees do want to ensure that ballot language gives the town the ability to impose taxes and pass additional regulations, such as setback and zoning laws, which they will need to address if it passes.

If approved, laws would take effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

In hammering out the exact wording of the marijuana ballot issue at a Jan. 20 special meeting, trustees voiced concern for issues such as the number of operations it would allow, whether to allow grow and testing operations, zoning concerns, and the effects operations might have on utilities, and specifically, on water and electricity use.

The issues of medicinal facilities, recreational (retail) facilities and taxation are all addressed in three separate ballot questions.

"I just want to make it as clear for the voters as possible," said town attorney Bo Nerlin.

Nerlin, who served on the Ridgway council where the town allows marijuana facilities, called the retail language as broad as could be. If the town wants to limit activities based on zoning concerns or water issues, said Nerlin, all of that can be written into the regulations.

"I don't think it matters that we split it up into the two (ballot issues), but it gives voters a choice," said trustee Tom Wills.

The town can also check with other municipalities, including Ridgway, to see what works and what doesn't work for them.

For now, said trustee Larry Jakubiak, the question is, "Does this community want this? This is a democracy. We'll find out."

Town Water Ordinance

At the Jan. 20 special meeting, the Hotchkiss town council discussed proposed changes to the town code regarding water and sewer tap requirements.

Changes were suggested due to a request last March from Doug and Karla Nolte, who live out of town and sought a variance to connect water service from their existing tap to a new shop constructed on their property. At the time, council granted a conditional variance, then created language in the ordinance to address this type of situation.

Current regulations allow for "no plural taps." The change made following the Nolte's request allows property owners to hook onto their existing tap so long as the "new use shall not significantly increase average usage on the tap." Anything in the building beyond a sink and toilet, or the equivalent, including any type of living situation, would require a new tap.

In reviewing the town's master plan, said trustee Tom Wills, who also serves on the planning commission, it was discovered that the draft ordinance never came before council for review and adoption. In order to avoid an extension or force the Noltes meet the existing regulations and install a new tap, the changes need to be adopted prior to April 16.

Changes also address sewer taps, with the change allowing property owners who don't have a septic system to connect a unit with limited water usage into the sewer line. It basically liberalizes the existing ordinance, "which we hardly ever do," said Wills. "It made things easier."

The first reading and discussion will be held at the Feb. 11 council meeting, with second reading and adoption slated for March. Comments can also be made prior to the meeting.

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