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Winter Park to allow marijuana dispensaries, delivery

Months of discussion resulted in Winter Park Town Council approving the sale of retail and medical marijuana in town, as well as medical marijuana delivery.

On Tuesday, the council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance outlining legal sales in town and implementing a 5% special tax on sales. The ordinance allows for three business licenses — two in the downtown area and one in Old Town — which is one less than previously discussed.

Previously, Winter Park didn’t allow marijuana dispensaries within town limits. The Serene Wellness dispensary is located in unincorporated Grand County. The ordinance allows for the annexation of the land moving forward without repercussions for the dispensary.

The town will use a lottery system to decide who the licenses are distributed to and the ordinance requires all dispensaries be 500 feet away from each other. Previously, Town Manager Keith Riesberg indicated there were a number of interested businesses.

In addition to sales, Winter Park will allow for medical marijuana delivery in Grand County, meaning any dispensaries in town will be able to deliver to medical card holding customers anywhere in Grand. The town will be one of the first in Colorado to implement marijuana delivery after it became legal in 2019.

Revenue from the 5% special sales tax, which was passed by voters in 2020, will be split between mental health initiatives and the general fund.

The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for the next town council meeting June 15. Licenses will be available 30 days after passage.

In other business:

• Council kicked off the annexation process for a four acre lot along US Highway 40 and Village Drive, next to the Beaver Village and Snowblaze condominiums. The lot currently has a single family home on it with no other development. The annexation next goes to the planning commission on July 13.

• An agreement with Community Planning Services was approved for additional capacity reviewing for proposed developments. CSP staff would analyze proposed developments to ensure they meet Town Code, design standards and the town’s master plan. The agreement comes at no cost to the town since developers would reimburse the cost of the work.

• The town tapped Butler|Snow as bond counsel for the $7 million in Certificates of Participation the town anticipates needing to fund the Transit Maintenance Facility. Butler|Snow provided bond counsel to Winter Park for its recently completed public works building.

• Big Valley Construction received the contract for infrastructure work at the second phase of Hideaway Junction, the town’s single family, workforce restricted neighborhood. The town will pay $1.1 million for the work.

• Elite Surface Infrastructure was awarded the contract for street and sidewalk improvements in Winter Park. The town had budgeted $350,000 for the work, but by partnering with Fraser for the bid, the work will only cost $286,237. The targeted streets include Old Town Drive from US 40 to Winter Park Drive; Winter Park Drive to Zephyr Way; Forest Trail from King’s Crossing to Elk Trail; and Elk Trail to Moose Trail.

• Council approved special event permits for Mountain Moon Yoga at Wolf and Confluence Parks and for summer events at the Headwaters Center.

• An amendment to the final development plan for the Winter Park Preserve received final approval.

• Winter Park updated its town code to address the number, location and size of wireless community facilities, such as cell towers.


Winter Park still mulling marijuana

Winter Park is getting closer to finalizing new marijuana ordinances that would allow for four dispensaries in town.

On Tuesday, Winter Park’s town council discussed the proposed ordinances and nailed down some of the details, including the total number of licenses available and setback distances for marijuana businesses.

Per the proposed ordinance, three dispensaries could be licensed in the downtown area and one can be licensed in the Old Town area, with a required 500 foot setback from any other dispensary.

Council also decided to pause discussions on a marijuana consumption lounge in town with the plan of returning to the possibility after the town has time to evaluate the impact of the new marijuana businesses.

Still in the proposed ordinance is an allowance for medical marijuana delivery services, which would be the first time marijuana delivery would be legal in Grand.

Council will be discussing it further at the workshop on April 20 with potential for the ordinance to be on the May 4 meeting agenda.

In other business:

• Winter Park’s 20 cent disposable bag fee will be reinstated on May 1, coinciding with Fraser.

• Two plots of land at the intersection of US Highway 40 and Kings Crossing Drive were rezoned from residential commercial districts to district central.

• A liquor license for Devil’s Craft LLC was approved. Devil’s Craft representatives shared that they’re planning a BBQ and American food restaurant and bar with live music in the former Smokin’ Moe’s location at Cooper Creek Square.


Winter Park council member won’t support marijuana consumption lounge; others feel differently

Winter Park Town Council continues to mull potential marijuana regulations following the passage of a 5% special sales tax in November.

On Tuesday, discussions centered around how to approve licenses, either through a lottery or merit system, and how to space out dispensaries in town.

The proposed regulations would allow for four marijuana business licenses — three in downtown and one for Old Town — along with one consumption lounge. In the future, council could increase the number of licenses by amending the ordinance.

During discussions, a suggestion to space out the marijuana businesses based on town zoning raised a number of questions, including how that could conflict with a lottery program or lead to neighboring dispensaries that are technically in different zones.

Other council members preferred requiring businesses to be a set distance from each other, such as a 500 foot radius. This didn’t come without its own concerns, though, as council members conceded there is limited commercial space in town.

“I think we understand that the most difficult part of this process is going to be finding vacant land or a landlord who’s willing to allow the business in their space,” Mayor Nick Kutrumbos said.

In addition, council talked about how to fairly approve licenses when the interested applicant pool is larger than the available number of licenses. Discussions indicated that several marijuana businesses have shown interest since the election.

Town staff said they could research similar communities’ marijuana regulations for the continuing conversations.

While no regulations have been adopted, the proposed ordinance would allow for a consumption lounge and medical marijuana delivery.

The lounge has been a contentious issue, and council member Mike Davlin said he would vote against any ordinance that allows one. Other elected officials said a consumption lounge doesn’t seem much different than a bar with alcohol.

Though specifics of the ordinance are still being discussed, a majority of council members has voiced support for passing regulations and lifting the moratorium on marijuana businesses. Also, the special sales tax will be partly dedicated to funding mental health initiatives.

“If we put too many restrictions on them, then we’ll have four licenses that no one can really use,” Council member Jennifer Hughes said. “ A big part of that is the tax is going to mental health, which is so needed up here right now, so why put that off?”

In other business:

• New member Rebecca Kaufman was sworn in on council.

• The town updated its code for site and building design.

• Council approved a liquor license for Mexicali Tacos, a new restaurant at the base of Winter Park Resort.

• Council approved a special event permit for Winter Park Resort to offer drink specials at various restaurants at the base for Mardi Gras on Feb. 13.

• Amendments to the development improvement agreement and intergovernmental agreement with the Roam development passed.

• The town updated town code to consolidate developer financial guarantee, public improvement cost recovery and public improvement cost sharing requirements.

DEA raids marijuana grow house in Kremmling

The Drug Enforcement Agency, assisted by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, executed a search warrant on Wednesday morning on a residence in Kremmling.

Steve Kotecki, a spokesperson for the Denver DEA office, confirmed that officers searched a suspected high-volume marijuana grow house.

No arrests have been made, but Kotecki said arrests could come in the future, as the investigation is ongoing. Kotecki added he couldn’t yet release what had been seized during the search.

The property, on County Road 22, is owned by a Fort Lauderdale, Florida man, who purchased the property in 2017 for $675,000, according to county assesor’s data.

Winter Park votes for marijuana tax; council seeks to regulate sales

Winter Park voters have approved a ballot question by a large margin that would allow the town to collect a 5% special sales tax on marijuana.

With votes still being counted on Wednesday, the measure was passing 317-173 with 64.6% of voters favoring enacting the special sales tax and 35.3% against it.

According to Winter Park Town Manager Keith Riesberg, the town’s prohibition on marijuana sales remains in place until town council adopts regulations allowing marijuana sales.

Riesberg said discussions about what the regulations might look like will continue at council’s Nov. 17 workshop.

Per the ballot language, the town is required to split the funds raised by the sales tax 50/50 for mental health aid and the general fund. Winter Park will be able to collect up to $240,000 annually.

Riesberg added that the town has already seen some interest from dispensaries potentially wanting to open in Winter Park.

Grand marijuana sales exceed $900,000 in July

Monthly marijuana sales jumped past $900,000 for the first time in Grand County.

Grand saw $910,474 worth of recreational marijuana sold in July, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. This was almost $150,000 more than July 2019, which was previously the highest month at $764,812.

July has usually been the best month for marijuana sales in Grand County, followed by March. While March and April saw a decline compared to the same months last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, May, June and July exceeded last year’s monthly sales by at least $70,000 each.

June 2020 sales reached $652,513, or $100,000 more than June 2019. So far this year, April has been the lowest month at $382,636.

Reported marijuana sales in Grand have totaled $4.3 million year to date. At the same time last year, the county had seen $3.7 million in marijuana sales and totaled $6.6 million at the end of 2019.

July was a record-breaking month for Colorado as a whole with statewide marijuana sales blasting past $200 million for the first time ever.

Since 2014, Colorado has recorded almost $9 billion in retail and medical marijuana sales. Grand County’s medical marijuana sales are not reported.

Winter Park to consider marijuana sales in town

Winter Park is looking to allow retail and medical marijuana sales within town limits and will ask voters this November to implement a special sales tax. 

On Tuesday, town council approved a ballot question for the special election that will ask voters if the town can impose a 5% special sales tax for retail and medical marijuana on top of the existing sales taxes.

Currently, Winter Park doesn’t allow retail or medical marijuana sales in town. One of the reasons town council is considering allowing marijuana sales is that it could act as a source of funding for health care priorities.

“Health care and human services are a top priority of the council and we’ve been … trying to find sustainable revenue sources to help assist via the Grand Foundation or other nonprofit opportunities,” Mayor Nick Kutrumbos said. “This may be a real revenue stream to assist with that.”

The only dispensaries in the county are located next door in Fraser and unincorporated Grand County. Both Fraser and Grand County impose a 5% special sales tax on retail and medical marijuana. 

Originally, the ballot language stated revenue raised from the special sales tax would go into the general fund, but some council members sought a change in wording to reflect specifically how the funds would be used.

“There’s very few ways to encumber a future council, but this is one of them,” said council member Chris Seeman of ballot language. “This is one of the few ways to say we’re going to use it for a specific purpose … and I do think mental health is a very valuable reason a lot of us are supporting this.”

Other council members agreed and voted to approve ballot language that will state that half of the revenue will be dedicated to mental health initiatives and the rest will go into the general fund.

Per the ballot language, the town expects the sales tax to rise to $240,000 per year from up to four dispensaries.

Council is also expected to review changes to the town’s marijuana regulations in upcoming meetings. If voters approve the special sales tax, council would then adopt the adjusted marijuana regulations.

Part of the driving force behind the change, aside from increasing revenue, is the expected future annexation of the Valley Hi Motel property, which is where Serene Wellness, a retail and medical dispensary, is located. 

So far, the town has not seen interest from other dispensaries looking to open within Winter Park, according to Town Manager Keith Riesberg.

In other business:

• The town started updating its ordinances regarding trash and bears. The major change is the time residents will be allowed to put trash bins out for collection, which would be no earlier than 6 a.m. and no later than 8 p.m. the same day. 

It also requires that trash bins be stored or screened when not out. If that’s not possible, then the bins must be wildlife-proof. The updated ordinance allows the town to issue a notice of violation within seven days of wildlife getting into the trash.

• Council approved the town’s first deed restriction for an accessory dwelling unit being built on Lions Gate Drive. Per the deed restriction, the unit must be lived in by a person working at least 32 hours a week or 1,000 hours a year at a Grand County business. The minimum lease is six months. The ADU is still required to meet all town standards, including having a separate entrance, parking and paying tap fees.

• After 34 years of service to Winter Park, council honored Jim Myers on Tuesday by naming the town’s new public works building after him. The Jim Myers Public Works Building is expected to be finished by January 2021.

Sky-Hi News Poll: Do you support the proposed dispensary near Granby?

Last week’s Sky-Hi News poll question and results are as follows:

Do you think mail-in voting has been beneficial for Colorado? (272 total votes)

• Yes, I can’t imagine it any other way — 81%
• No, voting should be done in person — 19%

Answer this week’s poll question below.

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Granby remains opposed to proposed dispensary location

Granby’s elected officials have reasserted their opposition to a marijuana dispensary just outside town limits.

After a nine month delay because of an issue with the building lease, the hearing for IgadI’s proposed dispensary near Granby has been rescheduled for 10:30 a.m. Aug. 25. If passed, it would be IgadI’s second location in Grand County. Last September, the Granby Board of Trustees voted unanimously opposing the location.

However, the location at 843 W. Agate Ave. is not within town limits so the decision lies with the county. The Granby Trustees voted again on Tuesday against the proposed dispensary.

The trustees pointed to the fact that Granby residents voted in 2010 against allowing medical marijuana in town.

“We’re just moving forward with what the original vote was,” Trustee Josh Hardy said.

Two members of the public commented at Tuesday’s meeting with one highlighting the fact that the proposed dispensary is in the jurisdiction of the county. The other asked the town to reconsider the 10-year-old ballot measure because of the medical benefits of marijuana.

The Granby board voted 3-1 opposing the location, with Trustee Nick Raible dissenting. Raible pointed to the location of the dispensary and strict marijuana regulations as the reasoning for his decision.

“Personally, I do see the value — especially for cancer patients, as my wife is one — in having medical marijuana,” he said over the phone Thursday. “I might feel very differently if it were in town, but … it’s not in town. I feel like it’s the county’s responsibility.”

He added that the ballot question other trustees used for their reasoning was a decade old.

A recreational marijuana question could be placed on Granby’s ballot either through board action or through a citizen petition. The deadline to place anything on a ballot is Sept. 4, which the trustees said did not allow enough time to consider board action on such a measure.

“If the public decided to get it on another ballot, whether it be November or another ballot in the future, I would say great,” Hardy added. “Let that go back to the voters, but the history shows for us that our townspeople did not want it.”

Even with the town opposed, Trustee Natascha O’Flaherty said she believed the county would approve the application. She cited a similar 2017 circumstance when the county accepted Serene Wellness’ proposed dispensary on unincorporated land abutting Winter Park despite strong opposition from the town.

She encouraged Granby to revisit a ballot measure in the future if the county approves the location.

Town Manager Ted Cherry will be attending the Aug. 25 county hearing as a representative of the town.

In other business:

• The board chose not to move forward with a Gallagher stabilization measure. Grand County, Winter Park and Fraser plan to have a ballot question this November asking voters to adjust mill levies to keep revenue consistent based on the state’s residential assessment rate.

Trustee O’Flaherty maintained that such a measure could raise taxes and asked that if it were to go on the ballot that the question state so clearly. The town manager advised that, if the language mentioned raising taxes, the town should not move forward with the ballot measure, as he suspected it would not pass.

Trustee Raible made a motion that the stabilization measure go forward without the tax language, but heard no second and the motion died.

• The board appointed Trustee Hardy as the acting mayor. If the mayor and mayor pro-tem are unavailable for a board meeting, the acting mayor runs the meeting. This was the case Tuesday, due to Mayor Paul Chavoustie’s impending departure and Mayor Pro-Tem Deb Shaw being out ill.

Grand County’s retail marijuana saw decline in March sales

Grand County’s retail marijuana sales might have felt the effects of the COVID-19 closures in March, according to the state’s sales report.

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, Grand County saw $661,002 in retail marijuana sales in March. This is less than what the county reported in March of last year, which was $716,797.

In an industry that’s seen steady growth in Grand and across the state, the drop of more than $55,000 in sales likely was due in part to the coronavirus closures that starting rolling in mid-March. Though marijuana stores were considered essential and allowed to remain open, tourism was discouraged and ski resorts shut down before spring break could properly begin.

The state overall saw an increase in retail marijuana sales in March, with $128 million in sales this year compared to $114 million in March 2019.

While March was still the highest month for retail marijuana sales this year so far in Grand, it was only slightly higher than January’s $626,116 in sales and February’s $612,478. Last year, March’s retail sales were more than $100,000 higher than January or February.

April and May marijuana sales tend to drop as the county enters mud season, so those numbers might not show as much impact from the coronavirus pandemic as March has. April and May’s reports have not yet been released by the state.

Last year, Grand’s best month for retail marijuana sales was July at $764,812 while the worst was May at $396,004.

Through March, Colorado has seen more than $438 million in total retail and medical marijuana sales this year. Grand County’s medical marijuana sales were not reported.