Paonia Town Meeting

The Town of Paonia held its first in-person board meeting since the COVID-19 shutdown.

By Lisa Young

Staff writer

The town of Paonia took another step toward allowing retail marijuana sales during its June 23 meeting. Trustees reviewed and discussed a draft ordinance ahead of the November 2020 election outlining the town’s rules and regulations for retail pot shops.

Members of town staff, the town attorney and members of the governmental affairs committee have been working on draft regulations for the licensing of retail marijuana in preparation for a ballot initiative in November. Language for the ballot question or questions needs to be submitted to the Delta County Clerk by early August.

Colorado Amendment 64, passed in 2012, allows for the cultivation, testing, manufacturing and retail sales of marijuana in the state. Locations in the state can determine if they want to prohibit the marijuana sales or approve the time, place and manner in which marijuana establishments can operate and limit the number of establishments. Businesses must follow the Colorado Marijuana Code.

The Paonia ordinance would amend Chapter Six of the Municipal Code and add a section entitled Paonia Retail Marijuana Code. The ordinance, if approved by the board, would become effective after midnight Dec. 31, 2020 provided voters approve one or possibly two marijuana related measures in the works for the November election.

Oversight and licensing of retail marijuana sales will be regulated by the state and then the town. The ordinance takes into consideration zoning stipulations, a tax bond in the amount of 5,000, background checks to determine both moral character and state residency of the applicants.

If approved, the pot shop must be 1,000 feet from a school and residential childcare facility. There will be no mobile facilities and restrictions regarding deliveries. In addition, no retail shops will be allowed in residential zoned areas and licenses will need to be renewed annually with a number of operating fees.

Julie Huffman, a law firm partner at Clay, Dodson and Huffman, P.C in Delta, will serve as the new municipal judge for Paonia. Huffman was unanimously approved by the board following the recommendation of the Paonia Municipal Judge Hiring committee consisting of Chief of Police Neil Ferguson, Trustees Dave Knutson and Michelle Pattison and town attorney Bo Nerlin. Huffman will take over for Hon. Bruce Joss who served as the interim judge following the resignation of Hon. Brad Kolman in December 2019.

Trustees unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement with the newly-formed One Delta County Economic Alliance. As part of the agreement the town of Paonia will pay 1.7% or $1,122 annually to offset ODC expenses.

“After review of the budget with the Finance Director, we find that while there is not one single line item within the general fund that should be reallocated to offset the cost, there are multiple line items where we can reduce expenditures and are projecting lower expenditures than budgeted for including lower a lower electric bill due to updated system, general offices supplies, etc,” said Corinne Ferguson, town administrator, in her letter of recommendation to the board.

Potential financial contributions to One Delta County Economic Alliance are as follows, Delta County 62% or $40,916; City of Delta 28.6% or $18,875; Orchard City 3.6% or $2,375; Cedaredge 2.6% or $1,716; Hotchkiss 1% or $660 and Crawford .5% or $330.

Jay Canode, Paonia Skate Park, made a presentation before the board and requested support for future upgrades. Canode said he is still waiting on Delta County for the requested $40,000 to help with the estimated $300,000 park improvements. Trustees directed town staff to draft a letter of support for the park upgrades.

Ben Katz, Western Slope Conservation Center, updated the board on the recent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) final plan that opens the area up to extensive oil and gas development over the next 15 to 20 years. Katz asked the board to draft a letter to the Department of Interior addressing the continual dismissal of the towns’ concerns and requesting additional protection for the North Fork Valley and requesting that oil and gas leases be stopped until a better plan could be put in place. Mayor Mary Bachran directed Katz to draft a letter for board approval at a later date.

A special meeting was called for Tuesday, June 30, to discuss a request by local merchants to among a number of things support closing down Grand Avenue on Saturdays from 1-7 p.m. from July 4-Sept. 26 in order to allow businesses to host sidewalk sales and gallery openings. The special meeting will also have an executive session to discuss legal matters.

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