By Lucas Vader
The Town of Cedaredge launched into a discussion on licensing and business input on the subject of retail marijuana on Thursday.
The initiative to allow marijuana in Cedaredge town limits, which passed in the election last month, would allow retail stores as early as Jan. 1, so as the year wraps up, the town board of trustees is launching into planning.
Trustee Heidi Weissner came to the table with notes on the subject from a recent Economic Development Advisory Committee meeting which she attended. The general consensus, according to Weissner’s notes, was that the business community unanimously agreed that retail marijuana is a legitimate business and should be treated as such, even though much of the business community opposed the notion of retail marijuana in general.
Also, “They unanimously agree that it should be in the B1 District,” Weissner said. The B1 District consists of the south side of Cedaredge along Highway 65 and east of the stoplight. This advice takes West Main Street off the table, while also removing the stretch of Highway 65 beyond Cedaredge Elementary School from consideration, assuming the board follows the advice.
Other pertinent advice was, in terms of planning and zoning for retail marijuana, to allow the stores to have the same codes as liquor stores. Weissner gave her own recommendations alongside advice from the advisory committee meeting.
“They are counting on some foot traffic and excess business from the marijuana business, so my recommendation is that we allow it in all of our business districts,” Weissner said. “I also feel that we should reduce the [buffer] zone from a thousand feet to 500. [All of] the business community in our meeting agreed that it should be treated similarly to a liquor store.”
The buffer zones Weissner referenced are set limitations for how close a retail marijuana shop can be to a school. As far as zoning goes, Weissner pointed out that the state didn’t have a regulation of a 1,000 foot buffer zone, but that their own early plans had it set that way.
Weissner brought up concerns to the board of police presence near the shops, but she declared that a non-issue in her opinion due to the passing of the Back the Badge initiative last month, which will allow up to seven sworn officers for the Cedaredge Police Department.
There were also concerns of vehicle traffic and parking, which further discourages them from placing a retail marijuana store on West Main Street, particularly due to the fact that, because of their sparseness, people would hypothetically be visiting the business from out of town.
The board did, however, consider East Main Street, somewhere in the stretch beyond the Old Slaughterhouse Music Hall.
Trustee Patti Michael reported to the board that she’d taken a survey of customers passing through the Cedaredge Foodtown regarding opinions on a shop being on Main Street. The survey showed that approximately 7 out of 8 Cedaredge residents were opposed to that, though West Main and East Main are very different as far as business presence goes. Overall, Michael said that people have shown preference for it to be along the highway.
“We don’t have to allow a store on Main Street,” Weissner said. The town can, in fact, decide on a slew of restrictions for where they’d want retail marijuana business to be conducted. “If we decrease the buffer zones to 500 feet, it could be something we do in the future.” In other words, it would leave the option open for trial and error later.
With those factors in consideration, the town board of trustees will be in discussion with the planning and zoning commission to set up parameters.
Beyond Weissner’s report of advice from the meeting, Town Administrator Greg Brinck addressed the ways local licensing would work, while also addressing the vetting and selection process of retailers applying.
This discussion also included a couple different options concerning the number of shops.
According to Brinck, as per the ballot measure that passed last month, the town can now allow both medical and recreational marijuana sales.
With the numbers where they are in general, Brinck said they can allow only two total locations and risk not having a medical marijuana shop, or they could allow a total of three locations, which would ensure medical. This option was met with approval by Weissner and trustees Richard Udd, Jim Atkinson and Charlie Howe.
The higher number of three was opposed by Trustee Cathy Brown, who opposed the ballot item for retail marijuana throughout the entire process.
“I just don’t understand how there’s going to be enough business for two retail pot shops,” Brown said.
“You would be surprised, is what I would say,” Brinck replied.
It is not, Brinck said, recommended to require a business to obtain both a license for recreational and retail, as that would severely thin out the selection.
Brinck explained that the state and local processes are separate. An applicant can apply for a state license at any time, but it comes with a financial risk, as there is a $5,000 application fee. Alternatively, once it’s allowed to do so, they can apply for a local license with the town if they agree with the board of trustee’s parameters for their business. Both state and local licenses can be approved contingent on approval from the other authority.
Requirements for applications to run a retail marijuana business in town will include an application fee, a complete site plan, architectural elevations showing proposed use upon completion, a ventilation plan, a floor plan and a security and surveillance plan.
The regulations would be in line with those through the Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue. Otherwise, the businesses would have the same exterior codes as any other business in town.
“We need to be specific on the façade even though we don’t have any façade requirements,” Weissner said. “I think everybody’s in agreement we don’t want giant pot leaves all over the place. We probably don’t want some psychedelic painting on the side of the building, or that kind of thing. So we need to be specific, and we can.”
Brinck added that statutes for signage would take care of many of those concerns.
The applications would be taken in one of two ways, Brinck said. They could take them in chronological order of applications received, or draw by lot. The draw by lot may be weighted by local ownership preferences or by years in business.
Weissner inquired about adding extra weight to ensure that they truly choose the most reputable applicant, but Mayor Ray Hanson warned against favoritism.
Further discussion among the board and the planning and zoning commission will further determine parameters in the coming meetings.