RIDGWAY - By a vote of 5-1 at its meeting last Wednesday, Aug. 14, the Ridgway Town Council approved in second reading an ordinance regulating the number, type and location of retail marijuana establishments in the Town of Ridgway.
The ordinance limits the number of licenses to be issued in the town as follows:
- The total number of Medical Marijuana Center and Retail Marijuana store license combined is limited to four;
- The optional premises cultivation licenses are limited to one for each town-licensed medical marijuana center, and one for each town-licensed medical marijuana-infused products manufacturer;
- The total number of medical marijuana-infused products manufacturing and marijuana product manufacturing facility licenses combined is limited to two;
- Marijuana cultivation facility licenses are limited to two;
- Marijuana testing facility licenses are limited to two.
As amended and approved in second reading, the ordinance also prohibits any licensed retail recreational marijuana activities from taking place within 1,000 feet of a school, alcohol or drug treatment facility, or residential child care facility. There was some discussion among council members about whether that setback ought also to extend to commercial child care facilities, but in the end, the majority of council agreed to support the ordinance as amended. Mayor John Clark was absent from the meeting.
Councilor Jim Kavanaugh, the lone councilor to vote against the new ordinance, seized the opportunity to “explain his thinking.”
“I am among the many who voted against the original [Amendment 64, which legalized the recreational sale and use of marijuana in Colorado] and I still have concerns, like many people, particularly around public health and safety,” he said, adding that as a clinical psychologist, he knows firsthand “the possible negative consequences and potential addictive quality of non-medical marijuana.”
Kavanaugh said he would be more supportive of following Ouray’s example of allowing the community to decide whether to allow commercial recreational marijuana enterprises to set up shop within town limits, by putting the matter up for a vote in November.
“I think it is a risky cultural experiment that could easily be snuffed out with enforcement of federal law,” Kavanaugh stated. “I know that there are residents in our community that think the same way.”
RIDGWAY WEIGHS IN ON PROPOSED COUNTY SALES TAX INITIATIVE
Several councilors and Town Manager Jen Coates reviewed a joint workshop which they attended last Tuesday, Aug. 13 along with Ouray County Commissioners and representatives from the City of Ouray, in order to discuss the county’s proposal to ask voters in November’s election for a one percent countywide sales tax hike to cover severe shortfalls in the county’s revenue stream due to declining property values.
Coates told council about several concerns she expressed to the BOCC about the proposed tax, especially in light of the fact that the town would likely have its own property tax question regarding the Streetscape project on the November ballot. “Multiple tax questions would be a lot to swallow,” she said.
Moreover, Coates pointed out, the 1 percent countywide sales tax increase would take the Town of Ridgway’s sales tax level to 9.5 percent, high compared to that of neighboring communities, leading to concerns about “leakage” – shoppers going to Montrose to get lesser cost items at a lesser tax rate.
Nevertheless, Coates said, “We were sympathetic to their [the county’s] need.”
Councilor Jason Gunning said he walked away from the meeting “optimistic for a better solution” than the proposed sales tax – namely, a 3 percent countywide use tax that would raise about the same amount of money as the 1 percent sales tax. Commissioners instructed staff at the end of the work session to look further into the merits of a use tax.
“It was good to keep a seat at the table, and let the county know that this has the potential to [negatively] affect the town,” Gunning said.
Council discussed a potential communication problem between the Town of Ridgway and Ouray County, with both sides having professed to be taken by surprised by the other’s plans to place a tax question on November’s ballot.
“Communication on both sides could have been better,” Councilor Rick Weaver acknowledged. However, he reasoned, if the town opted not to go forward with its Streetscape bond question, that would simply impell the county to go forward with its own tax question. “And if by chance that passes, the chance of us passing anything down the road is greatly diminished,” he speculated.
Councilor Ellen Hunt added that the City of Ouray had voiced its own objections to the proposed county sales tax hike. “They were actively looking to go for a sales tax increase soon because they are also looking at pretty major shortfall,” she said. “They are struggling with same concept; if county does this now, their ability to go for that is greatly diminished.
“Money is always hard,” she concluded, as she rubbed her eyes and groaned. “I don’t think anyone is ever enthusiastic about more taxes.”
“There seems to be some consensus we are not really fond of the idea,” Councilor Johnson concluded. “I think if we continue to have a seat at the table and continue to express our opinion, that’s the best we can do at this juncture.”
The Ouray County Commissioners are set to have a final discussion regarding ballot language for the proposed sales tax question at their next meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 27.
RIGHT TO RIDE
A group of young biking enthusiasts including Sawyer Morris, Sean Miller, Ryan Yocum, Cameron Tcherich and Dillon Nafziger attended last Wednesday’s Ridgway Town Council meeting, asking permission to ride their bikes in the bowl at the Ridgway Skate Park near the Chipeta Sun Lodge.
Bikes of all types and sizes are currently prohibited at the skate park, but the boys explained that the bikes they ride are specially designed to be ridden safely there.
“Our proposal is to allow bikes with no metal pedals and no pegs,” they said, adding that skaters in the community are on board (so to speak) with the proposal and happy to share the park.
While councilors generally worried about the safety impacts of allowing bikes at the skate park, they also congratulated the boys for taking a first step toward communicating their concerns in a public forum. In the end, council agreed to pass the matter on to the Parks Committee for evaluation and recommendation.
“I don’t think you will hear anyone say no at this point,” Councilor Eric Johnson said.
Ridgway Area Trails representative Rod Fitzhugh reported that single track trail construction on Bureau of Land Management property across Highway 550 from Ridgway Reservoir continues to progress, and that the group built almost two miles of trail over a single work weekend in July. There is another work weekend coming up Aug. 23-25. Per Fitzhugh’s request, council agreed to release $500 it had already budgeted toward supporting the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, the umbrella organization of which RAT is a chapter. The funds will be spent on port-a-potty rentals, print and radio advertising, and food for volunteers this coming weekend.