MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – The Town of Mountain Village Town Council voted down an ordinance to allow retail sales of marijuana – for now. By the end March, the council will whether to extend the moratorium or to put in place an ordinance banning all pot sales on a permanent basis.
If council does not make a final decision, the State of Colorado could allow marijuana sales in Mountain Village.
Thursday’s decision was not unanimous: Mountain Village Mayor Dan Jansen and councilors Michelle Sherry, David Schillaci and Joanette Bronson voted to strike down the ordinance to allow retail sales and councilors Richard Child, Cath Jett and John Howe favored allowing retail pot sales.
Jansen, Sherry, Schillaci and Bronson agreed that retail pot establishments in Mountain Village could harm its reputation as a family-friendly destination. Howe, Jett and Child, however, said seling retail marijuana would reflect the overwhelming support San Miguel County residents voiced in passing Amendment 64, which legalized recreational use and possession of the formerly illegal drug, in the 2012 elections.
Since voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012, Mountain Village has been reluctant to permit retail marijuana stores.
Bronson, who had originally supported the idea of retail pot sales in Mountain Village, switched her stance last week, saying the results of a survey of Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association members swayed her position.
“In a nutshell,” said Greg Pope, president and CEO of TMVOA, who presented the survey findings, “Two-thirds of TMVOA members voted against retail sales in Mountain Village, and one-third voted in favor.” Many of these TMVOA members are second homeowners who, though normally eligible to vote in local Mountain Village elections, were not eligible to vote on the statewide Amendment 64 election.
Of the 1,730 members with listed email addresses, Pope continued, TMVOA received 610 responses, three times more than the responses its survey usually engender.
Pope cited comments from respondents, many expressing displeasure at what they perceived to be a potentially relaxed nature of public marijuana use, although ingesting marijuana in public is against the law.
One comment, from a TMVOA member in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., said that he and his family were considering vacationing elsewhere because of the “rampant pot smoking,” especially in gondola cabins. No smoking of any substance is permitted on the gondola, which is classified as a public transportation system.
After Pope’s comments, Sherry observed that while the Town of Telluride permits retail sales and Mountain Village does not, the town’s three (and soon to be four) pot shops are only a short gondola ride away.
“We have the best of both worlds here,” said Sherry. “In Telluride, there are more bars, a bigger party scene and they have all the pot shops. I do think that Mountain Village has maintained a brand of being more family-oriented and family friendly. We should allow the town to have what they have, and to allow residents up here to get what they want. I agree that we should not rush into this.”
Jansen echoed Sherry’s points, emphasizing that Mountain Village does not need retail pot shops to attract tourism revenue.
“Of the 24 or so recreational marijuana stores that opened January 1 in the state of Colorado, three of them were in our neighbor, the Town of Telluride,” he said. “So our region, which represents less than one-half of one percent of the state’s population, had more than 10 percent of the state’s recreational stores on opening day. In the view of our council, that’s seemed like adequate supply for those with an interest.”
Still, said Howe, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have some of those customers up here?”
Jansen agreed that marijuana sales would create revenues for the town, but argued that ultimately the tax revenues generated by retail pot shops in Mountain Village would be marginal, and not worth the possible harm they pose to the town’s reputation as being geared toward families.
“To be honest,” Jansen later told The Watch, “Our budgets are in good shape. I don’t think we needed that money. Our back of the envelope estimates did not suggest significant dollars. Plus, common sense suggests that much of the marijuana clientele will spend more time in Telluride than up here in Mountain Village. Given that Mountain Village gets more peaceful in the shoulder season, it’s not even clear that a retail business would be viable in Mountain Village, though obviously that is not our call if a business wanted to try.”
Jansen added that if medical or retail marijuana establishments would be permitted in Mountain Village, “we weren’t going to allow them in the core plaza areas or in primary pathways – the shops would have been tucked out of the way.”