The Durango City Council’s draft regulations on retail stores show it’s nearly impossible to locate them inside city limits.
Councilors discussed retail and medical marijuana draft ordinances during its study session Tuesday afternoon, with one of the biggest issues dealing with whether to allow recreational pot sales downtown or in the Central Business District.
The La Plata County Board of County Commissioners also held a work session focusing on marijuana Tuesday afternoon, with both meetings attended by local residents in the medical marijuana industry.
The city’s draft ordinance on retail marijuana calls for a 1,000 foot separation between retail pot shops and schools, day care centers, substance-abuse recovery centers and public parks. However, a map showed that the only space available would be around the intersection of East Third Avenue and College Drive.
City Attorney Dirk Nelson said there’s no setback requirement in the recreational pot state law, but the 1,000 feet setback is in the medical marijuana state statues, but allows local governments to change them. However, the Department of Justice appears to be strongly enforcing federal law banning selling drugs within 1,000 foot limit of schools and substance-abuse facilities, he said.
“Certainly those two fall within what they’re calling the enhanced penalties,” Nelson said.
The council also wants to give established medical marijuana businesses first crack at recreational pot licenses, allowing them to apply after the current ban is lifted July 1. But another map showed there’s only two dispensaries that would qualify to do that: Medical Horticultural Services LLC on Tech Center Drive and Rocky Mountain High Wellness Center on East Animas Road (County Road 250) in northeast Durango.
“This is a map of no opportunity,” Councilor Dean Brookie said.
North Main Avenue is currently out because of the parks. The council discussed lowering the distance requirement from parks from 1,000 to possibly 500 feet or 250 feet.
Councilor Christina Rinderle said she felt strongly that downtown is fragile from the economic downturn and doesn’t want to alienate tourists from visiting.
“I really think the best approach is to take a measured one, small steps,” she said. “Maybe this will be a huge boon to our downtown; maybe it won’t,” she said. “It’s just too early to tell.”
Councilors seemed to agree that they wanted more maps to look at before really pinpointing where these business should go. Recent surveys among the business community seemed to indicate a even split over whether retail pot stores should be allowed downtown.
City Planner Nicol Killian, said allowing downtown retail marijuana stores would mean a change in land use and the business would have to comply with parking requirements. The one medical dispensary downtown was approved as medical office and didn’t require a use change.
“They can’t even park (with) the offices that are there now,” she said.
Nelson said the areas near the parks seemed to offer more space and additional space may depend on how day care centers are defined.
Some residents have pointed to Bodo Industrial Park as the best location for recreational pot stores, but Greg Hoch, community development director said Bodo was never developed for that kind of business.
“It’s not geared toward accommodating significant retail,” he said. “It doesn’t have any sidewalks, it doesn’t have any on-street parking, so I just wanted to put that on the table for you to keep in your mind.”
Some changes to the current medical marijuana code are being considered for consistency.
The draft retail pot ordinance also bans social clubs, marijuana cultivation facilities and product-manufacturing businesses.
A public hearing is scheduled for May 6.