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Central City considers cannabis controls

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Council examines water meter and line maintenance fees

By David Josselyn

The City of Central Council met for a work session on Tuesday, February 7, 2017, to talk about two separate issues; how and to what extent do they want to control the marijuana industry inside the City, and water meter ownership issues. Due to the extensive water damage at City Hall, the Council held their meeting at the Gilpin County Court House sitting around the Commissioner’s octagonal table. All the regular Council members; Mayor Kathryn Heider, Alderwoman Shirley Voorhies, Alderwoman Judy Laratta, and Alderman Jeff Aiken, were in attendance. For staff, Manager Daniel Miera, City Attorney Marcus McAskin, City Clerk Reba Bechtel, Public Works Director Sam Hoover, Utilities Director Jason Nelson, Community Development Director Ray Rears, Finance Director Abigail Adame, Fire Chief Gary Allen, and Captain Tom Ihme were attending. Two council candidates; Barbara Thielemann and Bobbi Hill sat in the audience.

Just a reminder; no official decisions are made during a work session; the Council was there to consider direction to give Staff on items that may appear on a future meeting agenda for voting.

Marijuana Considerations

With Ordinance 16-07, the Council put a temporary moratorium on new marijuana establishment licenses in order to have time to consider whether they want to place restrictions on the burgeoning industry. When the original retail Ordinance was passed in 2013, one type of facility was not defined and so not covered by the Ordinance; a marijuana testing facility. Regarding taking any action, Alderman Aiken requested they wait to get at least four months of financial data comparing sales before and after the added tax voted in during the last regular election. Alderwoman Laratta expressed a distance restriction would not be reasonable due to the layout of the City. Mayor Heider said she does not want to see a string of pot shops along Main Street. Attorney McAskin and his associate went over some possibilities based on data from other municipalities.

Marijuana Restrictions Around the State

There are three common restrictions placed on all marijuana establishments that can be found in different combinations around Colorado. First of all, there are four different types of establishments for two kinds of businesses. Both medical and retail marijuana can have a store or center where the final product is purchased, a cultivation facility, a manufacturing facility, and a testing facility. Central City currently has a ban on manufacturing and cultivation. The common restrictions are to limit the quantity of licenses; to limit distance between establishments; to place a ban on particular kinds of establishments; and a combination of any of these.

  Edgewater puts a restriction on the number of licenses. Glenwood Springs, Boulder, Garden City, and Glendale have distance restrictions only. Centennial and Greenwood Village have a total ban on all establishments. Wheat Ridge, Idaho Springs, Leadville, and Denver have various combinations of all three. Fort Collins thinks outside the box and has a distance restriction along with a restriction of the number of total clients (patients) per establishment.

Marijuana Processing Fees

Another type of restriction can be the processing fee for a license. The State of Colorado charges a license fee between $1,500 to $8,000 per year. Municipalities tack on a local license fee between $1,000 and $15,000 per year. The City of Central currently charges $2,000 per year.

Testing Facilities

A testing facility, only recently defined by the State, is an establishment that tests the final product for potency, cannabinoid profiles, terpene testing, residual solvent, and microbial testing. The facility can be small and contain expensive high-tech equipment. There have been no reports of issues with hazardous waste or byproducts in existing facilities. There are very few facilities in the State of Colorado, so if Central City approved licensure, they would have a niche in the market for a while. The Council were all in favor of gathering more information about testing facilities and willing to consider including these types of establishments within city limits.

When discussion turned to hours of operation, the Council was all in favor of extending the hours to match the State of Colorado restrictions. This would allow establishments to be open between 8:00 a.m. to midnight. Attorney McAskin will add that to a future Ordinance, probably in March.

Water Issues Debated

The first item of consideration was whether the Staff should bring an Ordinance to the Council that would allow property owners to opt-out of the water line maintenance fees recently added to the water bills. As of January 2017, residents pay a maintenance fee that allows for funding of future repairs of the existing system. A brief discussion was held to determine if residents were allowed to opt-out, could they ever opt-in, or would it be for life? And if not for life, then could they choose to opt-in years down the road when repair issues are imminent? And if it is for life and a transfer of ownership happened, would the new owner be able to opt-in? Alderman Aiken argued that they should keep it simple and not allow residents to opt-out. It would create “chaos” in billing and administrative costs. The Council was in agreement to not allow an opt-out clause at this time.

Water meter ownership was the next issue on the table. Currently, the property owner owns the meter and all financial responsibility that goes along with repair and replacement. The concern raised was about meter pits in the middle of a road, a right-of-way, that would take a lot more wear and tear outside of the owner’s ability to control. Alderwoman Laratta was particularly concerned about trucks and other heavy equipment driving over meter pits in the middle of the road. After considerable discussion, it was decided that Staff would bring back an amendment to the Ordinance changing the language from “may” to “shall” regarding damages outside the owner’s control. In other words, the City shall be responsible for repair for damages as long as the pit is outside the property line and damage was caused by things outside the owner’s control.

Regarding the cost of the meters themselves, Manager Miera reminded the Council that the new ¾” meters installed in 2012 were paid for upfront by the City, costing between $180 to $215 each. The agreement was for the City to pay half the cost. The City chose to use $180 as their baseline even though only two were purchased at that price point, and so the meter charge on the water bills for all ¾” meter users is $90 total.

Looking Ahead

The work session adjourned just before 8:00 p.m. The next regular Council Meeting will be Tuesday, February 21, 2017, at 7:00 p.m. at the Gilpin County Court House.

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