As city crafts new pot rules, Steamboat Springs officials say they don’t want to be like Glenwood Springs
July 19, 2013
Steamboat Springs — When they were deciding Tuesday night where recreational pot shops should be allowed to open up in Steamboat Springs, some city officials and council members here pointed to a city on the Interstate 70 corridor as the one place they don’t want to become.
Glenwood Springs features too many dispensaries in its downtown, they said.
When medical marijuana dispensaries first started popping up, Nancy Page said she was concerned. Page, who manages an art gallery in downtown Glenwood, asked the city council there in 2010 to temporarily ban them from the commercial district until better regulations could be drafted.
"I was just worried it would keep visitors and customers away," she said about the dispensaries.
Although she said it still feels "icky" to have so many around in the commercial district, she hasn’t seen her worries come true. The tourists have kept coming, she said, and years have gone by without too many complaints.
"I personally don’t see a big negative impact from it," she said Friday. "I almost wish I didn’t have to say that."
Still, the coexistence hasn’t been perfect.
A quick Google Search shows at least four dispensaries in the downtown area.
Page said businesses that neighbor those dispensaries still have shared some complaints, and one dispensary ruffled some feathers when the owner put out a sandwich board sign advertising its "flavors of the day."
The sign since has been removed.
Some business owners dislike having dispensaries so visible in the city.
Dennis Bader, who owns a flower shop downtown, said he hears from customers who are shocked and surprised to see the dispensaries.
"I don’t think it’s a good image right on your main street," he said.
Members of the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night mostly agreed.
Visitors to Glenwood Springs come over a bridge on Grand Avenue and immediately are greeted by large signs for medical marijuana dispensaries in the downtown corridor, Public Safety Director Joel Rae said.
He questioned whether it was the city’s intention for that to happen and added that his biggest concern about allowing pot shops in the same downtown commercial district as liquor stores here would expose children to the message of marijuana.
In a 5-2 vote, the city council agreed with the city’s recommended zoning that still will allow pot shops through a conditional-use process to apply to move into some commercial districts that line U.S. Highway 40 south and west of downtown but not in the business districts at the base of Steamboat Ski Area or downtown.
The decision came after council members Cari Hermacinski and Sonja Macys questioned why pot shops should not be allowed to apply for all of the zoning districts that accommodate liquor stores.
Council’s deliberations on the zoning of pot shops illustrates the types of tough, and sometimes contentious, decisions municipalities are making across the state in regard to what kind of presence they want marijuana to have in their communities.
And many decisions are personal.
Rae said his recommendation for the zoning of pot shops stems from him being a parent and a law enforcement official.
And in Hayden, the Town Council still is grappling with whether to allow retail pot shops.
"We need to look at it as business as well as a moral issue," Town Council member Jim Folley said Thursday night after a vote to ban the shops failed. "If we wait … is that opportunity gone?"
The Steamboat City Council’s decisions Tuesday night on many aspects or marijuana regulation put the city further ahead than many towns and cities in Colorado that still are weighing what rules they will adopt to regulate recreational marijuana.
Back in Glenwood Springs, the council hasn’t taken up an ordinance that will dictate the zoning of retail pot shops.
Page, who voted to legalize medical marijuana, said she hopes her city council finds a way to limit the presence of the stores.
“I just don’t want to see them on every street corner,” she said.
The Steamboat City Council will consider the first reading of its recreational marijuana ordinance Aug. 6.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com