The possibility of retail marijuana in mixed-use neighborhoods is dying after the Durango City Council took action Tuesday.
Reacting to resident-led opposition to a previous decision allowing recreational pot sales in mixed-use neighborhoods, especially around College Drive and East Third Avenue, councilors reversed course at Tuesday’s City Council meeting and decided to ban it completely in those neighborhoods. The final vote is scheduled for Aug. 5.
Durango City Clerk Amy Phillips approved four affidavits earlier this month from lawyers for a group of residents who challenged the ordinances on retail marijuana, medical marijuana and the Durango Local Licensing Authority. The group also had challenged the vacation-rental ordinance.
A referendum is a proposal to the council to repeal the law, which suspends the law pending the referendum vote. If the council rejects it, the proposal can go to a public vote.
Central to the council’s decision was information from a Colorado Department of Revenue study that evaluated out-of-state visitor demand. The study estimated that out-of-state residents represent 44 percent of metro-area retail sales and 90 percent of retail sales in “heavily-visited mountain communities.”
“A lot of the business for these retail marijuana stores would be coming from out of state,” City Planning Manager Nicol Killian said. “And being a region that has three other states that we border, we started looking at – is mixed-use neighborhoods really where we want businesses that bring in out-of-state tourism, or do we want to keep those in our other zones ... ?”
Acme Healing Center on East Third Ave decided to withdraw its retail permit application July 8. Killian said the other medical dispensary in a mixed-use neighborhood, Rocky Mountain High Dispensary in Ptarmigan Center off East Animas Road (County Road 250), is in a condo building, and the condo association amended its rules to prohibit all marijuana use in the building.
“We do not enforce condo declarations,” Killian said. “But once we know about them, we do not go against them.”
Most of the other mixed-use neighborhoods appeared to fall within 1,000 feet of schools or are ineligible for other reasons.
Councilors repealed the original retail marijuana ordinance and readopted it without the mixed-use neighborhood piece. They then faced three options: Put it back in entirely, keep it out, or put it in except for portions of the zone along College Drive and Eighth Avenue.
“We’re trying to simplify the process, our whole Land Use and Development Code was made to do that, keep things easy, clean, easy for the public to understand, so I would just go with the Planning Commission’s recommendation to take out the (mixed-use neighborhoods),” Councilor Christina Rinderle said.
Councilor Dick White said he felt the study’s findings were a deciding factor for him.
“I find that the rationale that staff has provided in terms of this new data ... I think that really underscores the logic of the recommendation that staff has brought and the Planning Commission has recommended to council,” he said. “I think that’s a sensible thing, it resolves the controversy we’ve been embroiled in, and I would be very pleased to accept that and just leave the other two options off the table.”
The council had been scheduled to repeal and readopt the medical marijuana ordinance, but some residents said at the meeting it wasn’t necessary. The lawyers representing the group were not there, and City Manager Ron LeBlanc requested a written clarification from the residents about the future of the referendum process.