Hayden Council consider further limiting potential locations for a dispensary

Hayden Town Hall (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

Hayden Town Council discussed changing current rules Thursday to further restrict where in the town a marijuana dispensary could be located, with the main intent being to keep “pot shops” out of the public eye.

The town’s current ordinance, which was approved in 2019, requires dispensaries to be 1,000 feet away from child and daycare facilities, schools, drug and alcohol treatment facilities, public parks, libraries and other recreational spaces. It also requires them to be 150 feet away from transportation channels, like Yampa Valley Regional Airport and U.S. Highway 40 through town.

A new shop would also need to get conditional use permits from council and the Planning Commission, in addition to getting additional site approval from the Planning Commission.

Council did not discuss a specific proposal for a new dispensary in town in its meeting Thursday. Instead, the discussion was focused on the future of the town and where they want to allow these businesses.

Council member Bob Reese said he doesn’t like seeing signs and green lights for dispensaries as he enters places like Steamboat Springs and Craig and wants the town to pass a moratorium on any new dispensary along the U.S. 40 corridor through town before a new dispensary tries to set up shop.

“I’m older than everybody, and I come from the days of the damn stoners, you know. They are still around, but back then, their pants was at their knees and everything, and it is a sour taste for me to see that stuff,” Reese said.

In the discussion, council rarely addressed any economic impacts, good or bad, that restricting a new dispensary in town could have, instead focusing on where they could be least seen.

“Is it OK if it is behind another building, or if it is obstructed by something?” council member Trevor Gann asked Reese in the meeting. “I want to know what the goal is. Is the goal to keep it out of the public eye?”

“That is kind of my view is to keep it out of the public eye. We’re trying to create an image for Hayden, we’re trying to beautify downtown, and we’re trying to move Hayden forward,” Reese replied.

Only Reese expressed clear support for the ordinance change, but other council members said they understood where he was coming from.

When Town Manager Matt Mendisco pulled up a map and drew circles around the various places in town that are already restricted against having a new dispensary under the current ordinance, there were few places left for a potential development along the U.S. 40 corridor.

“The only other spot under the current ordinance is in the middle of a field outside of town. There is nothing really over there. I can’t imagine that someone would want to put a shop there,” council member Ryan Banks said.

In response, Reese said that marijuana companies have lots of money, and they can develop in a field if they want. Reese said the people he talks to — admittedly not the whole town — do not want new dispensaries in Hayden.

In 2013, about a year after Colorado legalized marijuana, Hayden Town Council passed an ordinance forbidding any marijuana establishments in town. In 2015, that was relaxed to allow cultivation in town, and that change was approved by Hayden voters in a referendum that November. In 2018, the town started allowing marijuana-testing facilities before later allowing dispensaries with the 2019 ordinance.

Mayor Zach Wuestewald said they don’t know what will be good for Hayden in the future and could be unwittingly pushing dispensaries to places that will have more residential housing in the next few years.

Wuestewald pointed to development near Dry Creek in Hayden, which is near the industrial park area that Reese feels dispensaries fit better and should be allowed in.

“Is that the best place to be pushing a recreational drug into more of the heart of the town?” Wuestewald said, adding that in three years the town could look different and have more residential units. “It sounds good today, but are you cutting off your nose to spite your face?”

Recognizing council could debate for hours, Wuestewald suggested they schedule a longer work session to further discuss what, if any, changes council wants to make to the current ordinance. That session has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday.

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