Our View: Hayden at crossroads | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Hayden at crossroads

The Hayden Town Council took a bold step when it voted at its Aug. 5 meeting to allow licensed, commercial marijuana-growing operations to operate within the city limits. Now, that decision is being challenged by an unnamed resident who is seeking to override the ordinance passed by the council through a recall petition.

The status of that petition is still unclear, but the Hayden resident who is planning to open a grow operation in town has placed his project on hold. The council, however, is moving forward and plans to consider at its next meeting whether or not to put a wholesale marijuana sales excise tax to the vote of the people. That meeting is scheduled for Sept. 4, the last day the town can place an issue on the November ballot.

A year ago, on Sept. 4, 2014, we encouraged the town of Oak Creek to "stay the course" when deciding whether or not to approve a license for the town's fourth marijuana-growing business. Today, our message to the leaders in Hayden is very similar. We believe Colorado's growing marijuana industry presents an economic development opportunity for communities like Hayden, and we urge the town leaders in Hayden to continue moving forward on this issue. We also realize that it's ultimately up to the citizens of Hayden to decide the town's future in this regard.

We don't support a retail pot shop on every corner, but allowing regulated marijuana-growing operations in town is a way to generate sales tax for a community that has struggled to maintain a strong business climate. These marijuana businesses have the potential to create jobs and improve Hayden's tax revenue base, especially if local voters approve an excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales.

Again, using Oak Creek as an example, we don't think the addition of new marijuana-growing facilities will have a negative impact on the community of Hayden. Oak Creek has not seen an increase in crime or a negative effect on students or families. In fact, the new businesses, which now also include the town's first retail pot shop, have had little impact beyond the economic boost they've provided.

Under the newly approved ordinance, new marijuana-growing businesses would have to acquire a commercial cultivation license to operate, which would require potential operators to apply for a conditional use permit. This process involves a public hearing, a recommendation from the planning commission and action by the town council — steps that would provide checks and balances to ensure controlled growth and regulation of the industry at the local level.

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There is also a turnkey industrial park sitting outside the downtown business district that is 75 percent vacant. Its location at the edge of town provides the perfect location for these licensed commercial growing operations, and these businesses would provide new jobs for the community, which in turn could jumpstart housing starts in the largely unoccupied Dry Creek and Lake Village subdivisions.

We commend the six members of the Hayden Town Council who had the vision and the courage, despite some public criticism, to embrace a new industry that could play an important role in Hayden's economic revitalization. According to Town Manager David Torgler, estimates show a small excise tax of 5 percent has the potential to generate $143,500 in annual revenue for Hayden.

We encourage the council to stay the course, because the long-term rewards for Hayden will be worth it. And if the issue should go back before voters, it will be up to the citizens of Hayden to consider the town's future. Those who are resistant to change could be standing in the way of the future vitality of their community.

At Issue

Hayden’s approval of an ordinance allowing commercial marijuana grows has generated a great deal of controversy, including a petition drive to override the ordinance

Our View

Allowing regulated commercial grows has the potential to improve Hayden’s tax base, create jobs and bolster the town’s economy