Pot shops could open in more parts of town following Steamboat council vote | SteamboatToday.com

Pot shops could open in more parts of town following Steamboat council vote

Steamboat Springs City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday that would allow marijuana dispensaries to open in more parts of the city, including downtown.
File photo/John F. Russell

Editor’s note: This story was edited to reflect that council members Jason Lacy, Heather Sloop and Kathi Meyers voted against the zoning ordinance regulating where pot shops can be located in the city.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — During a meeting that lasted more than six hours, the Steamboat Springs City Council approved the first reading of a zoning ordinance that would allow pot shops to open in more parts of Steamboat, including downtown.

Council members took a piecemeal approach to a second ordinance that sought to change how the city deals with licenses for retail marijuana dispensaries. They approved only one provision of the ordinance, which adds a merit-based evaluation to approving or denying a license. 

The new zoning ordinance would allow dispensaries to open in commercial areas around Steamboat and next to residential neighborhoods, including parts of downtown and near Steamboat Resort.

Current rules limit the number of retail marijuana stores allowed in the city to three and restrict them to a single commercial zone on the west end of town.

In Old Town, only the numbered side streets would be viable locations for pot shops. None would be allowed along Lincoln Avenue. 

The ordinance also treats permits for dispensaries as a limited use, meaning a store could open in the above areas as long as it obeys zoning requirements, such as maintaining a 500-foot buffer zone around schools and parks. That is a decrease from the current buffer of 1,000 feet.

Proposed changes to the marijuana zoning code
  • Allows marijuana stores as a limited use
  • Reduces the allowed area between dispensaries and schools and parks buffers from 1,000 to 500 feet. This distance would be measured using the radius of the school or park
  • Allows dispensaries in commercial districts around Steamboat and in lots adjacent to areas zoned for residential properties
  • Prohibits stores from opening along Lincoln Avenue but allows them in downtown’s numbered side streets
  • Limits marijuana stores from being located within 1,500 feet of one another

Heather Sloop was one of three council members to oppose the ordinance, which would likely lead to more dispensaries around town.

“I don’t believe that our community has the need for more or that the stores are running dry every night,” she said.

Despite her opposition, the first reading of the ordinance passed on a 4-3 vote. Jason Lacy and Kathi Meyer also voted against the measure.

The above map shows possible changes to the city’s marijuana code, which could open portions of downtown Steamboat to pot shops. In this map, black denotes areas where marijuana businesses are not allowed. The colorful areas of the map could be open to marijuana businesses.
Map courtesy the city of Steamboat Springs

Matters became more convoluted with the second proposed ordinance concerning marijuana licensing.

As written, it would allow an unlimited number of licenses for marijuana businesses but implement merit-based evaluation criteria to vet applicants. It also proposed lowering the amount of cannabis products a dispensary has to produce on its own — known as vertical integration — from 70% to 50%.

Council members debated back and forth over these provisions, offering amendments that did not receive enough support to pass. 

They eventually decided to vote only on the merit-based evaluation. That system would require license applicants to submit a business plan, as well as plans for security, community outreach and odor management. 

It also adds nine criteria items for City Council to consider in approving or denying a license, such as the applicant’s experience in the industry and the business’ impact on the surrounding area. 

That measure passed on a 5-2 vote. 

Council members tried to reach a consensus on the other parts of the ordinance, but they became weary as the clock neared midnight.  

“I don’t think we should be having a conversation that directly affects so many people and so many organizations at 11:10 p.m. when we can’t get through anything at this point,” said council member Robin Crossan. 

The council eventually passed a motion to table discussion until May 21. That motion passed unanimously. 

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