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.

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