Grow operations debated at Hayden forum
Steamboat Springs — For such a divisive issue, a civil discussion about marijuana grow facilities was held in Hayden on Monday night.
The forum was hosted by Steamboat Today at the Routt County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall.
Speaking in favor of marijuana grow operations was Rodney McGowen, who has proposed building a grow facility in the Valley View Business Park. Speaking against the grow facilities was Brian Hoza, president of the Hayden School Board.
In August, the Hayden Town Board voted 6-1 to allow grow facilities, in which marijuana would be grown and sold to dispensaries outside Hayden. Marijuana sales are not currently allowed in Hayden.
Enough signatures were collected on a petition to put the issue to a public vote during a Jan. 26 special election.
At the forum, McGowen said he intends to employ 11 people full time at the grow facility with an average wage of $40,000. Allowing grow operations in the town is an economic opportunity, he said, noting several local businesses that have recently closed.
“Bottom line, it’s a difficult place to run a successful business,” McGowen said.
Both McGowen and Hoza were asked why the issue has divided the town.
“Hayden is and has been a conservative place,” McGowen said.
Hoza said some residents were vehemently opposed and repulsed by the idea of grow operations being allowed.
“Many felt that the majority of input was against this opportunity,” Hoza said.
In November, Hayden residents voted to tax any marijuana produced at the facilities at a rate of between 7.5 and 15 percent. At a tax rate of 5 percent, the town has estimated marijuana grow operations that will generate $143,500 in annual revenue for the town.
The panelists discussed the potential economic impacts of allowing grow facilities to operate in Hayden.
Hoza said there will be a cost to local resources, including the schools, social services and families.
“It’s difficult to consider an outcome that would hopefully support the remedy that it creates,” Hoza said.
McGowen said the town needs the additional tax revenue.
“If additional funds are not found, the town will have to increase property taxes or be forced to cut services,” McGowen said.
McGowen said the grow facilities would be secured with video surveillance and other requirements mandated by the state.
“The products will be shipped out of our area and cannot be distributed here,” McGowen said.
Hoza said allowing grow operations would be contrary to the fabric of the community, adding that it sends youth a mixed message about drugs.
“We’ve created a culture that says ‘We do not support these activities,’” Hoza said.
Hoza said grow facilities have the potential to negatively impact neighboring businesses, and there has been an impact on property values in other communities.
The panelists discussed whether allowing grow operations might discourage people from moving to Hayden or drive current residents away.
“We intentionally moved our family here from down valley 15 years ago, specifically to find the type of community that Hayden is,” Hoza said.
McGowen spoke of about the success of the industry in Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs.
“My plan is to have 11 workers and potential residents here in Hayden,” McGowen said.
“It’s really the larger picture concern in the community that’s at stake,” Hoza said. “Who are we to be known as?”
About 50 people attended the forum, including Hayden native Dutch Williams, who has lived in Hayden most of his 82 years.
“The kids are the ones who are most likely to get hurt out of the idea,” Williams said. “It is a drug.”
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