Paonia Trustee Dave Knutson

A citizen complaint against Paonia Trustee Dave Knutson will be reviewed during the May 11 meeting. 

Paonia town council wrapped up its retail and medical marijuana ordinance with the second reading and passage. Stores could open late summer or early fall.

In a nutshell, the ordinance allows the town to regulate and license medical and retail marijuana stores and repeals an article in the town code that prohibits medical and retail marijuana stores.

Trustees reviewed changes made following the first reading with additional comments and recommendations.

Trustee Michelle Pattison expressed concerns over the definition of a town block as it relates to the number of stores permitted per block. Pattison said the definition that was agreed upon in the first reading differed from the revised ordinance.

Town Administrator Corinne Ferguson said the definition was meant to “further define” what a town block is. She said the board’s intention to allow only one store per block remains.

“The way you had defined it previously you specifically called out both sides of the street as part of the definition of a block, I think that needs to be included if that is our intent,” Pattison said.

Town Attorney Bo Nerlin said he misunderstood the previous discussion by the board. He agreed with Pattison that the ordinance should clearly reflect that there can be only one store per block (meaning one store on either side of the street versus one store on the east side and one store on the west side).

Trustee Dave Knutson asked how the town can guarantee that at least one of the six licenses is a medical marijuana store, per the board’s last discussion on licenses.

“We can’t guarantee that ... all we can do is basically lay it out the best we can in the ordinance,” replied Mayor Mary Bachran.

Knutson floated the idea that the first license issued would have to be a combination of a retail/medical license.

“This way it insures that there is a medical store,” he said, “that’s the only way I can see that we make sure we provide it is to ensure that the first application comes in with that combination.”

The consensus of the board was to allow the market to decide what type of licenses applicants would apply for.

Citizen Paige Smith pointed out that the ordinance was missing language on the first ballot measure in the recitals. The board had previously agreed to list both marijuana ballot measures in the ordinance.

Suzanne Watson read for the record a letter, relating to town zoning, that she sent to the board prior to the meeting. Her concern was that the limitation on pot stores per town block could infringe on the rights of businesses owners who have “an unrestricted right to exist in a C1 and C2 zone.”

“My concern is that within the Paonia zoning chapter, there is no density restriction for retail uses therefore, the proposed retail marijuana ordinance goes too far by preempting the vested property rights as it restricts one property owner per block to this specific retail use. A C1, C2 property owner who is denied their right in an ordinance created outside of the zoning chapter could conceivably claim a government takings of their property and file suit,” Watson said.

Following her comments, the town attorney said he disagreed with her categorization of the issue.

“The Supreme Court has recognized, particularly where you are dealing with businesses that there might be a nuisance attributed, (such as) liquor stores, adult stores or adult businesses that there is the ability to have these limitations if you will. And I think that the limitations within the cap are sufficient,” Nerlin said.

He added that there are still a number of code updates and provisions that need to take place in the overall process. It was recommended by Knutson that the town make sure there is consistency with zoning.

Trustee Karen Budinger made the motion to accept the second reading of the ordinance with the minor changes recommended by the board.

The retail/medical marijuana ordinance goes into effect 30 days from the approval date. Bachran said town staff will now work on the application forms and procedures for acceptance.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the board went into an executive session to discuss options related to a citizen complaint filed against Trustee Knutson by Ms. Watson. Knutson recused himself from the executive session.

In a follow up interview, Mayor Bachran said the complaint filed against Knutson will be on the agenda for the next town meeting scheduled for May 11.

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