Steamboat Springs A new industry was born in Hayden Tuesday night when residents voted to allow marijuana growing operations.
Turnout was high for the special election, with 260 voting in favor of Ordinance 666 and 236 voting against it. About 1,100 ballots were mailed out to both active and inactive voters within town limits. The measure was approved by 52.42 percent of voters.
The special election was prompted by a group of citizens who collected enough signatures to put the issue to a vote.
In August, the Hayden Town Council voted 6-1 in favor of Ordinance 666 to allow grow facilities, in which marijuana would be grown and sold to dispensaries outside Hayden. Retail recreational and medicinal marijuana sales are not currently allowed in Hayden.
The discussion of allowing grow operations was prompted by resident Rodney McGowen, who has proposed operating a grow facility out of a building he owns in the Valley View Business Park.
“I think it was a decent turnout and am pleased that the voters had the chance to make their own decision,” McGowen said.
Brian Hoza is among the residents who campaigned against Ordinance 666. He said he was surprised by the outcome and is worried it could change his town's complexion.
“The results are what they are, and we’ll move on from here,” Hoza said. “At least the community had a chance to weigh in, and it’s not a decision that’s strictly weighing on the council members.”
Many town officials hope the new industry will provide badly needed tax revenue to the town.
By the end of 2017, the town expects to have burned through its savings if something is not done to reverse its financial situation. The town would then be faced with cutting services or finding alternative funding sources, such as additional property taxes.
In November, Hayden residents approved taxing the marijuana grown at the facilities at a rate between 7.5 percent and 15 percent. The town has estimated a 5 percent tax on marijuana grow operations would generate $143,500 in annual revenue for the town.
The possibility of commercial marijuana grows being allowed in certain parts of the community proved a divisive issue for residents..
“I’m glad it’s over is my biggest reaction,” Mayor Jim Haskins said. “It’s just been a distraction. I was pleased the way the original vote went with the council. We ended up going down this road, and it’s fine, because that’s the system we work with.”
In addition to allowing grow operations, Ordinance 666 outlines rules for residents who want to grow marijuana for personal use. The ordinance sets a limit of 12 plants per household and includes language that will make it easier for Hayden police to enforce the laws.
Anyone interested in opening a grow operation still will have to go through the conditional use permitting process with the planning commission. Commissioners then give a recommendation to the Hayden Town Council.
“We’ll be coming before the planning commission soon with the potential grow facility,” McGowan said.
Hayden Town Clerk Sharon Johnson said results of the vote will not be official until Feb. 3. That allows time for anyone to contest the vote.
There are also 11 outstanding ballots, but those are not enough to change the unofficial results.
The uncounted ballots include one to a military member, two upon which signatures need to be verified and eight that were held to preserve the secrecy of other ballots.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland