Craig City Council trims setback distances in prospective marijuana ordinance
The city of Craig trimmed its budding marijuana ordinance this week and is closer to presenting a finished product to voters.
At a workshop before their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Sept. 10, councilors decided to tackle the issue of setback distances marijuana businesses must be from homes and other sensitive facilities, the number of licenses available for each type of marijuana business, and whether the city can treat retail marijuana dispensaries in the same manner as liquor stores if a dispensary sells to an underage person.
A good portion of Tuesday’s workshop was spent hashing out setback distances marijuana businesses must be from schools, parks, and homes — but council seemed to mostly agree the setback distances away from homes for almost all the city’s commercial zones should be lowered from 500 feet to zero.
“I think downtown should be zero,” said Mayor Jarrod Ogden.
Opening the heart of downtown Craig to marijuana businesses was something Craig’s Downtown Business Association told councilors they wanted as it would bring more bodies to downtown Craig. According to the ordinance, only dispensaries will be allowed in the heart of Craig’s “commercial downtown” zoning district.
“That’s what the DBA asked for because they want traffic downtown,” said Councilman Paul James.
Both retail dispensaries and marijuana manufacturing facilities that test, cultivate, and wholesale marijuana would be allowed in the city’s commercial C-2 zone, its light industrial L1 zone, and its heavy industrial L2 zone with zero setback distance limits from homes in those areas.
“I think that creates opportunity,” said Councilwoman Andrea Camp of allowing marijuana businesses to take up residence in some of Craig’s empty industrial facilities. “There are spaces for these businesses.”
Both kinds of marijuana businesses must maintain a 100-foot setback distance from homes in the city’s other two zones — mixed use MU1 and agriculture — and 500 feet from schools, parks, or childcare facilities in all zones except for Craig’s core “commercial downtown” zone, according to the ordinance.
After a short discussion about the need for marijuana businesses to have proper surveillance and air filtration practices, council discussed the number of licenses each type of marijuana business should be allowed to have in Craig. Before Tuesday, council put a cap of three licenses allowed for each type of marijuana business — retail dispensaries, cultivation facilities, testing facilities, wholesale facilities, and others.
“Let’s baby-step this at first,” said Councilman Chris Nichols.
Nichols thinks Craig’s smaller marijuana market share may not support more than three licenses.
“I think fair market is going to shake out even three,” Nichols said.
Councilman Paul James concurred.
“I think we revisit in a year,” James said.
But Councilman Steve Mazzuca suggested that might be a bad idea.
“If we had 10 or 12 grow operations, that’s a lot of utilities,” Mazzuca said.
“That’s a lot of jobs,” James responded quickly.
“Jobs, utilities, we’re selling them water, obviously,” Mazzuca said, pointing out estimated sales taxes from dispensaries may be dwarfed compared to those from large scale marijuana operations. “They have to have a lot of water. That’s a lot more money than just $200,000 a year.”
Craig Police Chief Jerry DeLong in the past maintained his department may not have to hire additional officers once they settle into the job of inspecting and ensuring marijuana law compliance. Upon hearing the news councilors might raise the number of licenses permitted, DeLong said the situation may differ.
“To make sure everything is going right, we might end up asking for more officers, because it will take more manpower to get those inspected,” DeLong said. “But we’ll never know until we know how many will be in town.”
This brought some concern from Councilman Brian MacKenzie.
“My only concern is the burden it’s going to place on the police department,” MacKenzie said.
James pointed out voters might be more prone to vote against Craig’s new marijuana ordinance if it allows too many pot shops.
“If we open the gates right out the door and say anyone can have a dispensary, that might scare some people into voting ‘no’ right out the door,” James said.
Mazzuca clarified he’d like to see dispensaries kept at three.
“I don’t mind three on retail, but the grows I think should be more,” Mazzuca said.
Councilman James said if such grows are allowed, Craig could become a marijuana producer for the entire state.
“If they have a grow, they’ll be shipping that product all over the state,” James said.
“That’s the hope,” Nichols responded.
Nichols also wants Craig’s new marijuana ordinance to allow more flexibility in holding marijuana dispensaries accountable if they sell to an underage person. Nichols was concerned with language in the ordinance stating that if a dispensary takes a false or fraudulent license to sell marijuana to an underage person, that infraction shall not be grounds for revoking a license.
“I’m just concerned about the ‘shall,’” Nichols said.
City Attorney Sherman Romney said that’s an easy fix.
“We can remove that sentence and just leave it open to the enforcement process as it currently stands,” Romney said.
Once council’s regularly scheduled meeting began, it was time to vote.
James made the first motion to adopt the city’s setback distances for each zoning district except for downtown. The motion was seconded by Mazzuca and it carried unanimously.
Nichols made the next motion to adopt the city’s setback requirements to zero for the city’s commercial core, “commercial downtown” zone. The motion was seconded by James and it passed unanimously.
Nichols made a second motion to leave the cap on the number of dispensary licenses to three and remove the license cap on every other kind of marijuana business in Craig. Mazzuca seconded and Councilman Tony Bohrer was the only dissenting vote.
Nichols made and later amended a third motion to change the city’s new marijuana ordinance to mirror the state of Colorado’s language in the way the state handles liquor stores when an underage person is served. Camp seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Lastly, council voted to table the passage of its Resolution 16 — Craig’s complete marijuana ordinance — until Romney presents council with a final draft.