Gilpin residents express concern over commercial marijuana grow operations

County Commissioners hear complaints of drone invasion of privacy

By Jaclyn Morrow

The effects of the monsoon with the windows shaded made the upstairs room quite pleasant for the Gilpin County Board of Commissioners Regular Meeting, Tuesday, July 11, 2017. The room that is so filled with empty space due to the high ceiling makes it difficult to understand all that is said, despite the microphones amplified to the audience. Having many extra people in the room today did help initially as Gail Watson, District 3 Commissioner and Chairwoman of the Board, suggested that if the public intended to make comment to the board for the Public Hearings, they could be given a turn to speak by signing in on the sheet near the door.

A few more residents came up to sign in as Ms. Watson called the meeting to order. The Board of Commissioners present included Gail Watson, Ron Engels, District 1 and Linda Isenhart, District 2, Jim Petrock, County Attorney and Sharon Cate, Deputy Clerk. There were a few agenda items that now needed to be changed. Sharon Cate, Deputy Clerk had posted the agenda at Friday, July 7th, so now amended the agenda as she prepared the minutes of the meeting.

Agenda changes included removing the request for street parking for the fair, removing approval of the County Manager Contract until amendments possibly in Executive Session today, and Linda Isenhart wished to add three topics for discussion: Climate Coalition, drone operations, and Marijuana Mill Levy option to be voted on in November.

It had become clear that Resolution #17-11 was not needed to process. Since County Roads have no parking permitted on them, a request for special parking allowanced during the County Fair in August was requested. However, the actual Ordinance states that parking is permitted on County Roads during infrequent events, so the request was not needed to be addressed. Sheriff Hartman explained that parking near the fair grounds on county roads is temporarily permitted August 19 and 20th this year as long as emergency vehicles can still access the areas.

Resolution #17-15 was postponed as the contract for County Manager remains in negotiation. Further details will be released as negotiations progress.

Following the Agenda Review, opportunities by the public and press to make general comments began. The press had no comment; however one resident who had signed the sheet requested to thank Commissioners for attending the senior lunches and listening to their concerns.

Ordinance 17-01 Commercial Marijuana Grow Operations

The next item on the agenda was Public Hearing Ordinance 17-01. Ron requested that County Attorney Jim Petrock simply highlight Ordinance 17-01 for the people who may not have heard it before, rather than reading the entire document.

Mr. Petrock summarized that the principle reasons for Ordinance 17-01 was initially to maintain that commercial marijuana growing continues to be restricted in Gilpin County despite Colorado laws permitting it. He wanted to preface this by saying the target of this ordinance is only intended for retail grow and dispensary regulations. Rocky Mountain Organics has been given the only exception to this prohibition to this Gilpin County rule. RMO is the only commercial dispensary that is also requesting to establish a commercial grow operation in Gilpin County. Other Gilpin dispensaries purchase their products from other growers. RMO has to grow in another county at a hardship to their business because of this restriction Ordinance 17-01 is seeking to resolve. The purpose is to allow a commercial grow to be here on a limited basis. Three grow licenses will be issued, one is already spoken for with RMO. The other two would be in each of the other districts on commercial property, discretely placed so as not to interfere with any residential areas with smell or commercial activity.

  Ordinance 17-01 also requests the formation of an agency to monitor home growers in Gilpin County. As Colorado laws have been amended regarding certificate of residence, number of growers on a property, plant count and inspection, Gilpin intends to monitor and tighten their rules. There is also an inclusion of an Excess Tax for commercial growers of 5% which is different from Denver.

  Public Hearings began as the eight residents and Sheriff Hartman let the Gilpin Board of Commissioners know their opinions.

The first woman commented that she did not approve of marijuana grow facilities in our county. Her concern was that she felt it would disturb our peaceful, rural nature we treasure in our area. She was also concerned about the smell and other general issues.

The next resident seemed most concerned that residential areas not be contaminated by grow operations, and he requested that the Commissioners regulate strictly.

The next resident spoke of her experiences with RMO as she supported her mother’s needs. She spoke favorably of RMO and how they strictly adhere to all regulations with security, management, and cleanliness. She thought it was superior to the problems that seem to plague many liquor stores.

Another man was concerned about water usage of commercial facilities, and he believed that property values would go down in such a neighborhood, and that crime would go up around a grow facility.

Another resident’s opinion was clear as he referred to people dependent and addicted to marijuana and he did not want it in his back yard. He hoped the Commissioners had really researched the topic before coming up with this ordinance.

Sheriff Bruce Hartman made a professional suggestion regarding a paragraph that described the monitoring of home and commercial growers for the county, and of giving notice of inspection. He recommended that notice of inspection should be in writing, but also available with voice communications. Petrock asked about his advice for specifics, and it was thought that a 24 hour notice would be reasonable.

The next man to speak living in mid-county was very angry that a 13 year old family member was participating in what Colorado intended to be regulated. His anger and frustration was quite apparent. He does not like that people in public have used and smoked and are not regulated. He didn’t like the effect this brings to all the kids. He feels they are just wanting to get high, and not able to develop mental growth and discernment with this distraction.

The next lady who spoke believed that once it is started as medicine, it becomes poison. She complained that as she travels to other states, the only thing people say about Colorado is, “Did you bring some with you and do you like having marijuana there?” She is so disappointed people do not think primarily about the beauty of Colorado, just our law.

The last man to speak was the landlord for RMO and spoke very favorably about their operation. He said he has not had any incidents with them and looks forward to allowing them to grow on the property since it has no residential neighbors and has high security. He also is the owner of the liquor store next door to them and in his 20 years in the county, only one incident of drunken concern occurred in 15 years with the liquor store.

Watson closed the public comments understanding that no one wants a grow operation in their neighborhood. She said that as the other two licenses are requested, there would be a public hearing before they could be given, so they could make their comments then. She also said that the majority of the voters in this county voted to legalize marijuana, so they are going with what voters have requested as their elected representative.

Isenhart also commented in ways to help those with public opinions expressed to understand that this ordinance is not about the medical or recreational opportunities for marijuana use in Colorado, but the ways Gilpin will continue to prohibit commercial grows and comply with state laws for those who choose to grow and use it.

A women asked where the other two licenses would be given should two more requests be made. Isenhart said none had been considered, although it is hoped that there would be one in each county district if needed. RMO has already been assigned in the southern District 1. The central District 2 would need to have a residential property for sale to do be able to have a grow operation. And in the north a commercial property near Rollinsville would be a likely spot. There were a number of residents who wanted to continue giving their comments from the floor rather than at the microphone. Their comments were received cordially and as the need to move on to the next item of business, most everyone who commented left the meeting.

Resolution #17-16 was approved to amend the Deed of Conservation Easement in Gross, the Russel Bergren property. Mr. Bergren did present his concerns, and Petrock agreed with the request for amendment and explained the details to the Board.

The Treasurer’s Monthly Report by Alynn Huffman continues to provide excellent financial records for our county, so her report had no concerns. Discussion did include a few celebrations of progress. Her report was accepted as presented.

Annual Liquor License Renewal Application Coyote Liquor

  The background clearance was reported to be excellent, so recommended to be renewed. Linda asked how business had been and he said it is sometimes busier next door with RMO and sometimes he is busier. Construction seems to have played into some of the better times, too. This license passed the vote to renew.

Resolution #17-15 was not addressed, pending negotiations for the County Manger’s contract. A work session was eventually scheduled for Thursday, July 13 at 3 pm to work on negotiations for this contract.

While discussing the next opportunity to schedule a work session, a meeting was planned for July 25th in the library, at 7 pm, and the Grand Opening of the Water Treatment plant July 21, at 10:00 am had already been made with an RSVP.

Linda Isenhart read a sentence from regarding County Climate Coalition, following concerns that President Trump’s intention is to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord. “By combating climate change through renewable solar energy development, alternative community energy providers, water usage, and other local solutions, the undersigned local governments will continue their efforts to slow the dangerous pace of global warming while advancing environmental sustainability, protecting public health, and leading innovation.

Board of County Commissioners Status Report

Two vacant seats were voted to be filled for the CSU Extension Advisory Board. New Advisory Board Members appointed by GBCC are Harv Mastalir and Constance Reid. Both of these people have been in the community and enjoy participating in the valuable resource the Extension offers. Congratulations to these volunteers!

A discussion occurred about something needing approval by Wednesday regarding land with cabins, not for commercial use could be swapped with Boulder County although financial amounts were discussed. Engels did motion to approve a swap of land and the motion passed.

Isenhart was seeking information about regulations of resident concerns brought to her last night. Emails this morning were not able to be investigated before this meeting to give better advice. The problem appears to be an invasion of privacy, but it was hard to understand how to resolve the trespassing issues that clearly have been invading privacy of a residential area. Drones have been regularly seen investigating a neighborhood, hovering and even escaping when a shotgun was aimed at it. Air space invasion is considered trespassing, so Commissioners have agreed to seek more information to follow up on this concern. PUBLISHER’s NOTE: Per Sheriff Hartman who checked with the District Attorney, “invading private property air space” would NOT constitute trespassing the way the law is currently written.

The Board did return from Executive Session at 11:00 am with three items for their work session.

Commissioners spent about 30 minutes with Senator Cory Gardner’s Regional Director, Andrew Dunkley.

Mr. Dunkley was accompanied to the microphone by Sheriff Bruce Hartman and Kevin. They listened to the Commissioners many concerns regarding Cory Gardner’s influences with the Health Care changes from the Federal level. He suggested that as of two weeks ago, draft is being made for improvements. Engels made it very clear that other nations treat health care as a given and in the US it is more like a commodity. Watson firmly agreed, and Isenhart also included comments on the percent of Gilpin residents on Medicaid as well as the need for preventative maintenance that seems to be lacking in the original proposal.

Dunkley remarked about budgets being negotiated and amendments becoming available. Linda voiced concern about influential money being a detriment to the needs of the people. Dunkley repeatedly emphasized the need to communicate concerns by phone, email, and letter to Cory Gardener and he is part of those who attempt to respond to the comments. He wanted to make himself available in the future again to communicate with the Board and the Gilpin Community. He gave his card for contacts to Sharon Cate.

Status of Apex and Cold Storage Buildings

  Commissioners continued in the work session with Bill Paulman, Public Works/ Facilities Director. There was some discussion about making better work space for the Sheriff’s Office involving some facilities at Apex.

Forsythe Fire Mitigation Project

The last item in the work session involved the proposed Forsythe Fire Mitigation Project with the Boulder Ranger District.

Any questions or comments for the Gilpin County Commissioners can be easily made at 303-582-5214. A written note may also be sent to your district commissioner at PO Box 366 Central City, Colorado 80427. An email is also available for each of the three Gilpin’s Commissioners:

District #1 – Commissioner Ron Engels
  District #2 -Commissioner Linda Isenhart
District #3 – Commissioner Gail Watson, Chair

You are encouraged to have live conversations with all three Commissioners next Tuesday at Coffee with Commissioners, to be held at the Wondervu Café, Tuesday, June 25 at 6:30 pm.

Next Meeting

The next regular meeting of the Board of County Commissioners is Tuesday, July 25th, 2017. Meetings are held at the 2nd floor of 203 Eureka Street, Central City, Colorado.

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