Marijuana grow facilities near Three Springs have the Durango City Council rethinking a ban on the operations within city limits.
Councilors previously decided grow facilities were not appropriate within the city, in part because of their water consumption.
But operations on the edge of town present a concern because the city can’t prevent them, but the city plans to possibly annex that area in the future.
If the city isn’t proactive on the issue, the facilities could become La Plata County islands – without sidewalks, curbs, gutters, trees along streets or city services such as snow removal and police, City Manager Ron LeBlanc recently told the council.
“Getting uniform development to city standards is a more immediate concern than water use of marijuana businesses,” Councilor Dick White said.
He said the city has two options to encourage city standards:
It could extend water service to the grows and require them to develop to city standards.It could also change the land-use code to allow the industry, which would allow the city to annex existing businesses, provide water and require higher standards.Before allowing grow facilities, LeBlanc recommended the council consider an excise tax on marijuana wholesalers and a square-footage cap. The cap could be on how much total space is allowed to be dedicated to the industry, rather than caps on individual grow facilities, he said. The cap could be based on average water consumption.
Some in the local marijuana industry support allowing the facilities in town, and they understand that land-use and water planning is important.
Durango Organics co-owner Jonny Radding said he would welcome grow facilities in the city, and would expect the city to regulate them as it does other industries with similar water usage.
“I think water consumption within Southwest Colorado is a real concern,” he said.
Determining average water use may be difficult because it varies based on the age of plants and the growing style, said John Lynch, owner of KinFolk Farms. He runs a grow facility on the edge of town on well water.
The wholesale market is highly competitive, but he believes interest exists to open more.
He supports grow operations within the city. He sees them as economic drivers because they bring money into the community. Still, he understands the need for urban planning.
“Durango is nice. We want to keep it nice,” he said.
One grow that opened before the city banned them operates within the city, and six facilities in La Plata County have licenses to grow.
Last year, the city agreed to provide water to Durango Cannabis Co., which plans to open an 8,000-square-foot facility in Grandview, county documents show. In exchange for water, the property must be developed to city standards.
Watertowne Grow Facility is interested in opening in the same area, and it recently requested a similar agreement, Community Development Director Kevin Hall said. State documents show the owners of Watertowne are based in Texas and California.
Discussions to impose an excise tax on marijuana wholesalers in the county and the city are in the earliest stages, and any measure would go to a vote for approval.
County Commissioner Julie Westendorff said the tax is part of a laundry list of revenue options the board plans to examine.