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Marijuana licensing, zoning regulations begin to take shape

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Two ordinances related to the establishment of medical marijuana facilities in the City of Delta passed on first reading at the Dec. 18 meeting of the Delta City Council.

One ordinance deals with zoning; the other concerns licensing. Council, staff and the city attorney discussed both matters briefly at the end of a two-hour work session before moving into the regular meeting to take formal action. During that meeting, council member Gerald Roberts voted against both measures, saying the 20-minute discussion in the work session was not sufficient. "It's premature to vote on this," he said, a stance he made clear at the beginning of the meeting when he made a motion to remove both ordinances from the agenda. His motion died for lack of a second.

It's likely some changes will be made between first and second readings, but action was required if there's to be any hope of adopting the regulations before the expiration of a three-month moratorium on the acceptance and processing of medical marijuana facility applications.

The moratorium was enacted during a special city council meeting on Nov. 13, just days after voters in Delta approved the establishment of medical marijuana facilities. At that time, Roberts noted it would be difficult to develop and enact licensing and zoning provisions in just 90 days, but he voted in favor of the emergency ordinance, recognizing that a unanimous vote was needed to get the process started.

In response to Roberts' concerns at the council meeting, councilmember Chris Ryan noted, "I agree we still need to have discussion on this, but I think it's highly appropriate that we move forward tonight. One of our commitments was to do this in a timely fashion. That doesn't mean that we can't do due diligence. As you well know, we have two readings coming on this and we will have other opportunities for work sessions, as well."

"If you do want to take more time, you can certainly do that but you should consider extending the moratorium if you do," city attorney David McConaughy advised. Just in case, he recommended putting that step on the January meeting agenda.

For the next hour, he went through specific provisions of the ordinances, seeking council input on several questions.

Ordinance #17 deals with zoning and land use regulations for medical marijuana. In the A-1 district, cultivation of medical marijuana is a use by right. Medical marijuana cultivation and medical marijuana sales are a conditional use in B-2. In the B-3 district, medical marijuana testing is a use by right; medical marijuana products manufacturing, research and development are conditional uses. The I (industrial) district allows medical marijuana testing facilities as a use by right, and as a conditional use, cultivation, products manufacturing, research and development and sales of medical marijuana.

Performance standards are uniform throughout the land use code:

Medical marijuana cultivation facilities must be licensed through the State of Colorado and the City of Delta and shall comply with the following additional standards:

a. No noise, dirt or smoke shall be observable off of the premises.

b. No owner of real property or person in charge thereof shall allow, permit or cause the odor of marijuana to emanate from that premises to any other property.

c. All outdoor lighting fixtures shall be shielded so that the light source is not directly visible off the premises.

d. No medical marijuana cultivation facility shall be located within 100 feet of any dwelling unit, except dwelling units located within the A-1 District.

e. Must be fully enclosed by a building or structure including a roof.

Ordinance #18, concerning medical marijuana licensing, limits the number of each type of license to two. Council agreed to a lottery that involves the random selection of the number of complete applications equal to the number of available licenses. An application fee is $5,000 is non-refundable. License renewal or transfer of ownership was set at $3,500. An annual license fee of $5,000 is also required.

A list of 12 application requirements includes a provision that the applicant provide a map showing the proximity of the licensed premises to any public or private school, licensed day care facility, church, park and law enforcement facility (jail, police department and work release). A 1,000-foot setback is required from those establishments.

Council debated whether the setbacks should apply to other medical marijuana facilities, but decided the market would determine whether two establishments could succeed in close proximity to one another.

A map indicating the 1,000-foot setbacks has been posted on the city website, www.cityofdelta.org. The full text of the proposed ordinances is published in this week's DCI.

The second reading of both ordinances is scheduled for the regular council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 8. Due to the New Year's holiday, council will meet Jan. 8 and Jan. 22, rather than the first and third Tuesdays as normally scheduled. Council meetings begin at 7 p.m.

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