Steamboat Planning Commission supports more marijuana stores |

Steamboat Planning Commission supports more marijuana stores

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission passed recommendations to City Council on Thursday that would allow more dispensaries in town. (File photo by John F. Russell)
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It took more than two hours of deliberation and four motions, but the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission finalized its recommendations on a proposed ordinance that would allow more marijuana dispensaries in city limits during its meeting Thursday.

Steamboat Springs City Council proposed the ordinance, which would allow an unlimited number of licenses and increase the locations across town where those businesses could operate. 

Council members asked the Planning Commission for feedback on a set of changes to the zoning regulations that would allow marijuana dispensaries to open outside their currently restricted zone on the west side of town.

The ordinance maintains a buffer zone between dispensaries and schools or public parks but reduces that zone from 1,000 feet to 500 feet.

Members of the Planning Commission debated back and forth the interpretation and effectiveness of these changes, proposing their own amendments through motions that other members voted down.

Brian Adams, vice chair of the commission, finally came up with a set of recommendations, which passed with only one member, Martyn Kingston, opposing it.

The Planning Commission’s recommendations deviate in several key ways from the council’s proposed amendments.

The biggest change is allowing marijuana stores to open under a limited use, rather than a conditional use. The latter method would give City Council more vetting power in determining if a store could open in a certain part of town.

Marijuana codes: City Council vs. Planning Commission

City Council’s proposed amendments:

  • Treat marijuana stores as a conditional use, allowing them in areas near the Steamboat Resort base area and some downtown zone districts. Dispensaries would be allowed on numbered side streets, Yampa and Oak in downtown.
  • Reduce the allowed area between dispensaries and schools and parks buffers from 1,000 to 500 feet. This distance would be measured using a route of direct pedestrian access. 
  • Limit marijuana stores from being located within 1,500 feet of one another. 
  • Allow dispensaries in lots adjacent to areas zoned for residential properties. 

Planning Commission’s recommendations:

  • Treat marijuana stores as a limited use, allowing them to open in areas near the Steamboat Resort base area and some downtown zone districts as long as they meet buffering requirements. 
  • Reduce the allowed area between dispensaries and schools and parks buffers from 1,000 to 500 feet. This distance would be measured using a radius between the two locations.  
  • Allow marijuana stores to open less than 1,500 feet from each other.
  • Allow dispensaries in lots adjacent to areas zoned for residential properties. 

A limited-use system allows a dispensary to open as long as it obeys the zoning requirements, such as maintaining the buffer zone around schools and parks. 

Planning Commission Chairperson Rich Levy said this recommendation aligns with the language of Amendment 64, the legislation that legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 and sought to regulate it similarly to alcohol. 

“We would like to see rules and regulations of retail marijuana stores as much as possible be similar to the way we regulate liquor stores,” Levy said. 

Adams’ motion also struck down the 1,500-foot buffer zone between marijuana stores. City Council members proposed that measure as a way to prevent the clustering of multiple stores, a concern that commissioner George Eck III brushed aside. 

“Clustering for me doesn’t address any issues,” Eck said. “I don’t think we’re going to have three marijuana stores in a row or within 100 feet of each another.”

He considered the anti-clustering amendment unfair to prospective business owners.

“Current licensees could snap up all the prime spots, knowing that 1,500 feet around them, nothing could happen,” Eck said. 

The commission’s final change to City Council’s amendments concerned the measurement of the buffer zone between dispensaries and schools, child care centers or public parks. As written, the amendment calculates the 500-foot buffer zone using the distance of direct pedestrian access between the two properties. 

Commissioner Tom Ptach took issue with that measurement. He pointed to a situation in which a dispensary could end up right across the street of a school if the two were in the middle of their respective city blocks. 

He reasoned because someone could not legally cross in the middle of the street, direct pedestrian access would require them to walk halfway down the block to an intersection, cross the street, then walk down the other block.  

“That’s 600, 700 feet, even though they’re only 100 feet apart on the street,” Ptach said. 

To prevent such a situation, he advised City Council to compute the buffer zone using a radius measurement. 

“Then, you don’t run into that chance where they’re directly across the street from each other,” he explained. 

The Planning Commission’s meeting did not cover the licensing process or the town’s vertical integration requirement, which currently mandates that pot shops produce 70 percent of the products they sell in affiliated manufacturing and cultivation facilities.

Those topics are outside the commission’s jurisdiction, but will be discussed at future City Council meetings. During their most recent work session, City Council members considered requiring stores grow and produce all of their marijuana in Routt County.

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