Hayden marijuana petition possible | CraigDailyPress.com

Hayden marijuana petition possible

Matt Stensland

— An unknown Hayden resident has taken the first step in attempting to reverse the course of the Hayden Town Council when it comes to allowing the commercial cultivation of marijuana.

Hayden Town Manager David Torgler said that, on Wednesday, a resident came in and spoke with Town Clerk Sharon Johnson about the process for overriding Ordinance 666, which was passed by the town council Aug. 6 in a 6-1 vote. A majority of town council members felt that allowing marijuana grows for wholesale distribution throughout the state could be economically beneficial to the town.

With the threat of a public vote, Hayden resident Rodney McGowen on Thursday said he has put his plans for opening a grow operation on hold.

"I've just basically put it on stop right now," McGowen said. "There is no sense in wasting money if it's not going to be allowed."

Even though McGowen has suspended his plans, the town is proceeding, and the town council on Sept. 3 will consider whether to put an excise tax on wholesale sales of marijuana on the November ballot.

Torgler said the resident who came to Hayden Town Hall on Wednesday walked away with a circulation affidavit, the first step in forcing a public vote on Ordinance 666. Torgler would not provide the name of the resident.

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The process for overruling the will of the town council is governed by the Hayden Town Charter as well as Colorado statutes.

Torgler said three registered voters need to sign and fill out the circulation affidavit. After that, the affidavit will be returned to town hall, and those who signed it can begin collecting signatures on a petition.

In order for the referendum to go to a vote, the petition needs to contain the signatures of 10 percent of registered voters from the 2014 election year.

Routt County Clerk Kim Bonner said there were 1,052 registered voters in the town of Hayden in 2014. That means the petition needs to contain 105 validated signatures.

Ordinance 666 will be legally published Sunday. Supporters of the petition then have 30 days to collect signatures. Opponents of the petition, in turn, then have 40 days to protest the signatures.

If the necessary number of signatures are verified, the issue will go to the voters, but Togler said there is not enough time to get it on the November ballot.

With no municipal election this spring, a special election would need to be held.

Bonner said if the town goes through the county to conduct the special election, it could cost the town about $10,000.

While McGowen does not have a problem with a public vote, he thinks Hayden residents would ultimately support allowing grow operations.

In November 2012, residents voted on Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use in Colorado.

In Precinct 2, which includes the portion of Hayden north of U.S. Highway 40, 49.5 percent of voters supported Amendment 64. In Precinct 5, which includes the portion of Hayden south of U.S. 40, 51 percent of voters supported marijuana legalization. Combining the vote totals of the two precincts, 50.5 percent of the voters approved of Amendment 64.

Those two precincts included residents who lived outside town limits. Bonner said there was no way to see specifically how residents within town limits voted.

A divisive issue

Hayden councilman Dallas Robinson was the lone council member to vote against Ordinance 666.

His adamant opposition is apparent on his public Facebook page, where he has called out the other council members for voting in favor of Ordinance 666.

"Are you really going to let them take this town from you and influence the future of your children?" Robinson asked in an Aug. 9 post.

Robinson on Thursday said he has spoken to 100 people who are upset at the council's decision.

"I can hardly get my job done," Robinson said. "People are mad."

Robinson believes Hayden has an opportunity to distinguish itself from other parts of the Yampa Valley and say 'no' to marijuana.

"I really encourage people to understand that Hayden can be different," Robinson said.

Even though Robinson is passionate about the issue, he said he does not intend to be directly involved with the petition effort, and he does not know who picked up the petition materials.

"I only hope that this town can step up, get motivated, get energized and do what they think is best and fight hard for that," said Robinson, a fifth-generation Routt County resident.

Robinson said he has been directing people who are frustrated to go to town hall and get information about the petition.

Robinson said the ordinance has become a very divisive issue among the town's residents.

"It's so damaging," Robinson said. "So damaging."

McGowen, who wants to open a grow facility in the 3,300-square-foot warehouse he owns in the Valley View Business Park, agrees that the issue has stirred up a lot of emotion. He said he is disappointed people cannot disagree on issues and still get along.

"I had some ugly looks at the fair last night, but it is what it is," McGowen said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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