In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that the author of this article is married to the Mayor.Roughly four-dozen citizens (not all of them from Lyons) showed up at Monday night’s Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting to voice their opinions and concerns at the second reading and public hearing for an ordinance on the proposed regulations and zoning for medical marijuana businesses in Lyons. There were, of course, the usual suspects; dispensary owners, employees, mothers against marijuana, teachers, preachers, and the now ubiquitous National Geographic Television crew. New to the mix, were a half dozen patients, who put an interesting, and up to this point mostly unheard, voice into the mix.
Mayor Julie Van Domelen informed everyone present that because of the anticipated large number of speakers, they would be “continuing” the public hearing to the May 2 BOT meeting. In an effort to ensure civility and keep everyone on message, she spent five or ten minutes outlining the “ground rules” for the evening. Forty-five minutes for licensing, fifteen for zoning, each speaker to get three minutes, no clapping or booing, no personal attacks, and address only the issues at hand (licensing and zoning). The Mayor adhered fairly well to the timing, likewise the speakers to the no clapping, booing, or personal attacks request; the last one, about staying on topic, not so much. There turned out to be quite a bit of “pontificating” from both sides of the aisle about the benefits and dangers of medical marijuana. Everything from quoting the scriptures about God urging us to utilize all the plants in his creation to machete wielding bandits wreaking havoc in our streets, was trotted out to drive home a point of view. Since it was a “public hearing,” Van Domelen let the speakers have their say, but kept a fairly tight rein on the timer.
Nearly everyone who spoke thanked the Trustees for their hard work and patience. Those in favor of the proposed ordinances, said they could live with the regulations: a cap at four (going down to two through attrition), 1000 feet from each other, 1000 feet from schools (non-complying centers would be grandfathered in), transferable licenses, each center being eligible to hold optional grow and infused products licenses, allowed square footage, and adherence to sign codes. They also asked that needs of the patients be considered paramount.
Those who were not so enamored with the proposed ordinances liked the idea of a cap at two, but wanted clarification on just how that would occur if the licenses were transferable. They also voiced concerns that the allowed square footage would be grossly over adequate if all four centers opted to apply for additional optional grow, and infused products manufacturing licenses. The “grandfathering” of Headquarters (the only dispensary within 1000 feet of a school) was also a major bone of contention, ith the prevailing position being to get rid of it, or perhaps give the proprietors the option of six months to find an alternate location outside the 1000 foot boundary. To a person, those opposed to the presence of medical marijuana businesses in Lyons, pleaded with the Board to put the issue to a voter referendum, and “let the whole community decide.”
Former Mayor Nick Angelo read a very well thought out statement thanking the Board for their hard work over the last months, and stating, “Now is the time to finish the job.” He noted that if the Board passed the ordinances it might be enough to placate the public, but in the event that the issue of banning medical marijuana did go to a vote and failed, the regulation for said businesses would already be in place.
As expected, the zoning ordinance didn’t get as much discussion as licensing. In a nut shell, dispensaries, or centers as they are now called, would be a “permitted use” in a commercial zone (no grow operations or infused product allowed). Centers, grow operations, and infused product manufacturing would be “conditional uses” in a light industrial zone (of which there is only one small parcel in Lyons with an existing non-medical marijuana business already established). In a general industrial zone, centers, grow operations, and infused product manufacturing would be “permitted uses” (again, only one small parcel zoned general industrial in town, and it’s already partially utilized [Lucky Farms, at the top of 5th Avenue] as a center). After everyone present had their say, and the clock moved toward 8:30 (only a little past the allotted time) a motion to continue the two public hearings until the May 2 BOT meeting was passed in a 7-0 vote.
The first reading of an ordinance that would address definitions and regulations concerning the growing of medical marijuana by care-givers and patients in residential neighborhoods was next on the agenda. Since it was a first reading (the second reading and a public hearing are also scheduled for the May 2 meeting), no public input was taken (the room pretty much cleared out) as the Trustees went through the proposal line by line looking for consensus.
This issue proved to be a sticky wicket. Although everyone was of the opinion that keeping neighborhoods from being over run by large scale grow operations or smaller “attractive nuisances,” was essential, patients and care-givers do have a constitutional right to “grow and procure” for themselves and their patients, in limited quantities (six plants in varying states of maturity or two ounces of product, unless more is deemed necessary by a doctor), as long as they have proper credentials. Finding a magic number that everyone could agree on was a toughie. Trustee LaVern Johnson felt that “six is enough!” Trustee Ed Bruder, playing the part of the “constitutionalist” seemed to feel that anything less than “what the doctor deemed necessary” was trampling on patients rights, and was therefore “unconstitutional.” The Mayor and Trustee Sandy Banta liked the idea of capping the number of plants per household at twelve. Trustees Kirk Udovich, who was “alarmed at the number 30” (1care-giver x 5 patients = 30 plants) and Kathy Jacobson were persuaded to go along with a dozen, as was Trustee Kathy Carroll (who was “not bothered by 30 if that is the state statute”), after getting some “constitutionality” assurances from Town Attorney Tim Cox.
Other items that got dissected by the Board were the questions of: “inside the residence, or at the residence,” “in a garage, or not,” “detached or attached” “outbuildings and sheds,” “secured or unsecured,” “inside or outside,” visible or not visible,” “detectable odor by a normal person,” et al. Udovich was able to somehow cobble together a motion that reflected most of what had been haggled over, and it passed to second reading and public hearing (May 2) in a 6-1 vote, with Bruder being the dissenting voice.
The consent agenda, consisting of the April 4 BOT meeting minutes and a resolution to participate in the Department of Local Affairs’ Main Street Project, was passed unanimously. The Board agreed to the implementation of an “honor system” for paid parking in Bohn Park, similar to the one in place at Meadow Park ($5 per vehicle, weekends and holidays, April 15 through September 30, residential parking passes available at Town Hall upon request, must present utility bill as proof of residency). They also set a public hearing for the May 16 BOT meeting to get public input on accepting the amendments of the Lyons Planning Area (to include the Hawkins property, Gwynne’s Greenhouse, and the northern decommissioned Longmont water treatment plant) as part of the intergovernmental agreement between Lyons and Boulder County. And finally the Trustees agreed to “voluntarily” take a fifty percent pay cut to help show solidarity with the staff during these financial hard times. They passed a resolution to do so earlier this year, but were instructed by Attorney Cox that due to state statutes, it could only be done voluntarily. Whatever!
Trustee and Staff reports were given, quickly. The meeting was adjourned, and everyone rolled out of there a little before 10:30 p.m.