Steamboat City Council to discuss ban on medical marijuana businesses
Council will also discuss noise ordinance at meeting Tuesday
May 16, 2011
All times are estimates, or according to agenda schedule, and subject to change
4:30 p.m. Dinner with representatives of the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District
5 p.m. Meeting convenes; 45-minute work session with the Upper Yampa district; 30-minute update on the city’s first-quarter financials
6:15 p.m. Discussion of potential revisions to the city’s noise regulations; discussion of whether to ban medical marijuana centers in Steamboat
7 p.m. Public comment; possible continuation of marijuana ban discussion; first reading of ordinance that would lessen approval process for mobile vendors; second readings of ordinances that would: approve city’s $11.9 million loan, through the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, for water infrastructure projects; approve fourth supplemental 2011 budget request, including allocation of grant revenues to the city’s airport fund, and of general fund revenues to the ice arena fund; establish new boundaries for City Council districts; and approve revisions to the city’s medical marijuana center regulations.
9 p.m. First reading of ordinance that would change city codes to allow increased divisions of some lots; second reading of ordinance adding Complete Streets requirements to city codes; economic development update; staff and council reports.
Steamboat Springs — A city report regarding whether to ban medical marijuana centers in Steamboat Springs leaves the door open for final approval of a ban as soon as June 7, a future public vote, or final approval of revised regulations that would allow centers to continue operating, setting the stage for a wide-ranging conversation tonight in Centennial Hall.
Such conversations are occurring across Colorado.
Dan Foote, city staff attorney, provided the Steamboat Springs City Council with extensive information in preparation for tonight's discussion. Citing data from the Colorado Municipal League, Foote wrote that more than 100 Colorado counties and municipalities have decided in the past two years — by ordinance or election — whether to allow medical marijuana businesses.
"Voters in Fraser and Minturn rejected bans," Foote wrote, adding that at least 37 elections have occurred on the industry statewide. "Voters in Pueblo and Fruita approved taxes but did not specifically address prohibition."
Thirty-three of those elections, he added, resulted in bans of medical marijuana businesses.
"At least 63 city councils or town boards have adopted ordinances regarding the regulation or prohibition of medical marijuana. Forty-two of them prohibited commercial marijuana businesses and 21 of them permitted commercial marijuana businesses with regulations," Foote continued.
He said mountain and resort communities have been split on the issue.
Breckenridge, Durango, Fraser, Carbondale, Buena Vista, Silverton, Telluride and Aspen have imposed regulations, Foote wrote, and Vail, Eagle, Avon, Dillon, Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs have enacted or voted for bans.
The topic of a ban in Steamboat Springs arose April 5, when Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae and Dr. Brian Harrington, of Yampa Valley Medical Associates, expressed their support of a ban to the City Council. Also that night, the council gave initial approval to revised regulations for the local medical marijuana industry.
Since that night, city officials have received at least 20 letters on the topic, from people supporting and against a ban. Those letters and Foote's full reports are available in the agenda posted with this story at SteamboatToday.com.
Tonight's discussion could occur in two parts. The first, earlier in the meeting, is a discussion of whether to consider a ban. The second, likely to occur after 7 p.m., is a second reading of the regulatory ordinance.
Foote said the council could decide to amend that ordinance with a ban that would then be up for second reading — and potential final approval — June 7.
He said he didn't think such a change to an existing ordinance would be a circumvention of the public process.
"The (city) charter expressly allows us to amend an ordinance after first reading, and there's no limit (to changes), so I think it's in our power to do it," Foote said.
He added that discussion of a ban April 5, tonight and June 7 would be "more than adequate public process."
Kevin Fisher, of Rocky Mountain Remedies, disagreed, calling any City Council action toward a ban "completely inappropriate" Monday.
"Everything we've done has been in complete compliance with the city," Fisher said.
He said a ban could set a bad precedent for businesses that receive approval to open in Steamboat.
"There needs to be some kind of guarantee from the city that we're not going to immediately shut you down after you make this kind of investment," Fisher said.
He said those opposing the industry could collect petition signatures and place the issue on a ballot for a public vote.
Foote said the meat of tonight's discussion likely would occur during the earlier agenda item regarding a ban because that could dictate what happens with the regulatory ordinance.
City Manager Jon Roberts said Monday that he'd talked with a couple of City Council members about the issue but did not yet have any indication of consensus, particularly with unknown factors such as potential county action.
"I do not really have a strong sense of what direction this whole discussion is going to take," Roberts said. "I'm looking forward to sitting there (tonight) and actively listening."
The City Council will begin tonight's meeting with a 45-minute work session with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, to discuss future water planning needs, goals and strategies.
Also tonight, the City Council will discuss potential revisions to city noise regulations, to guide city staff in preparing revisions that could enter the formal public approval process, through the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission and City Council, in coming weeks.
— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com