Bill French: Dispensary asks council to make “Natural Choice”
May 17, 2016
Community of Steamboat Springs,
Our proposed storefront location has created controversy far beyond what we ever thought imaginable. Natural Choice is a small, family run business that is owned and operated by community-minded people who love Steamboat Springs. When we originally identified the location at the Curve Plaza Shopping Center, our very first consideration was how does this fit in with the regulations and the community's culture. We are convinced that we have found a location with the appropriate balance of visibility and respect for the discretion that the citizens of Steamboat Springs have expressed through their land use ordinances governing cannabis dispensaries.
To begin, we would like to thank the city council for recognizing that certain procedures and legal protocols were not followed in our original hearing. We were truly blindsided by the negative comments and votes of some city council members at our original hearing. Up to that point, our application had generated zero controversy and only one negative public comment about parking through two public hearings, including our denial hearing. We had spoken with all of our neighbors, and the only issue that was ever expressed to us by any of them prior to our original hearing, including ACE, was parking. We immediately began working with the city to add five parking spaces in front of our storefront and that modification to the parking lot is scheduled for this summer.
Finding locations for a cannabis dispensary storefront is extremely difficult with the current local regulations. We must maintain a 1,000-foot buffer between a cannabis storefront and schools, daycares and parks, coupled with the additional prohibition of being adjacent to residentially zoned parcels. We feel these regulations are very appropriate as long as they are applied evenly and in a reasonable manner. In fact, there are a couple of things we wouldn't mind seeing tightened up. For example, growing cannabis and making hash with explosive gases should be limited to industrial areas. But currently, both of these are allowed in CC and CS zoned areas. The community should consider limiting these industrial uses to the industrial areas and allowing our retail stores to operate in their appropriate zoning districts, CC and CS.
Aside from the regulations it is incredibly difficult to find a landlord who is able to lease to a cannabis business if their property is subject to a mortgage. Given all of these restrictions, we were able to locate this storefront at Curve Plaza. Unfortunately, it is just barely inside the 1,000-foot park buffer from Bear River Park, as the crow flies. But we also feel there are many factors that still make this a very appropriate location for our store and warrant a minor 100-foot variance to the 1,000-foot park buffer regulation.
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Unfortunately, our original hearing degraded into "reefer madness," with fear and moral bias ruling the day instead of the democratic votes of a majority of our citizens supporting legalized cannabis in Steamboat Springs, equal treatment under the law and good governance. Tonight, we will present overwhelming evidence that our proposed location is not only appropriate, but one of the few locations allowed by ordinance. We are hopeful that we will be afforded the opportunity to show the community of Steamboat that this location is a non-issue as a cannabis dispensary by continuing to responsibly operate Natural Choice Co-Op.
Bill French, owner
Natural Choice Co-Op