by Joseph Lekarczyk
In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that the author of this article is married to the Mayor.It was refreshing to see a packed house at Monday night’s Board of Trustees’ (BOT) meeting that wasn’t there to discuss medical marijuana. Don’t get me wrong, it was on the agenda, and a half dozen or so of the two dozen people in the audience were there to address MMJ issues, but most of those present were there to talk about parking limits/tickets on Main Street.
Lyons Substation Supervisor Sgt. Kevin Parker got things started by stating, “Things have been very quiet around town lately.” Then he added, “We have had another victory for the forces of good. The tan pit bull seen around town has been captured!” Those present spontaneously erupted into wild applause. It was also learned that the animal was in the process of being adopted (more applause).
The Board then turned into the local licensing authority for medical marijuana, and heard a brief presentation from Ashley Rheingold, owner of Headquarters Emporium, requesting “local verification” for a medical marijuana center. Administrator Victoria Simonsen reiterated that the business had until December 15 to relocate their center, and Mayor Julie Van Domelen reminded Rheingold that a 30-day notice was needed before the move could be granted. The Board then voted 7 – 0 to approve the verification. Trustee LaVern Johnson stated she was going to vote no, because so many more kids were using marijuana (although she didn’t believe it was coming from dispensaries). Van Domelen cautioned the Trustees, “This is a quasi-judicial hearing, and as such, we cannot vote yea or nay because we like, or don’t like a particular business, but rather we must vote based on whether or not the business is in compliance with our local ordinances.” To this Johnson replied, “Are you saying I have to vote yes?” Van Domelen answered, “I’m not telling you how to vote.” Johnson then inquired if she could abstain, to which Simonsen replied “No, not unless you are a patient.” To which Johnson replied, “Not yet, but this process may drive me to it.” In the end, Johnson voted yes, but added, “With a protest!”
Next up was Lucky Farms owner, Sean Welch. He formerly operated his MMJ center out of the Lyons Excavation Building at the top of 5th Avenue. He said he didn’t renew his lease because the landlord was “hemming and hawing.” He wants to move to 138 Main Street (Lyons Village Central Plaza) next to the Bud Depot, but didn’t want to risk a further monetary investment with a petition to ban medical marijuana centers in the Town of Lyons hanging over his head (the paperwork for such a petition has been filed, but the petition itself has not yet been turned in). He cited extreme circumstance, and requested that the Board give him until 90 days after the referendum to reopen his business (if a referendum vote was held in conjunction with next April’s BOT elections, that would extend Welch’s deadline until late June or early July of 2012, or almost a year since he stopped doing business at his 5th Avenue location).
Several of the Trustees during the discussion that followed seemed inclined to go along with the request, but Van Domelen stated that she saw nothing exceptional about the circumstances. She noted that the medical marijuana business was fraught with risk, explaining that a vote to ban could come at any time, that the Federal government could decide to crack down on dispensaries tomorrow, or a landlord could always elect not to renew a lease. She added that the other three dispensaries were accepting the same risks, and it wouldn’t be fair to them to grant an exception. Van Domelen went further, postulating that Headquarters might very well ask for the same exception to the 90-day rule when they are forced to move in December. Trustee Ed Bruder disagreed, and said, “I can’t imagine a more extraneous circumstance.” He felt that a legal business was being held hostage by the threat of a referendum vote by a small fraction of the public. Trustee Sandy Banta also expressed concerns about the petitioner’s motivation to delay the referendum until April of 2012, instead of the originally purposed special election in December.
When the Mayor called for a motion, Trustee Kathy Carroll motioned to “deny the request for an exception,” which after a long pause was finally seconded by Johnson. Van Domelen reminded everyone that a yes vote was in fact a denial. The vote was 4 – 3 to deny (Bruder, Banta, and Trustee Kirk Udovich voted against). A seriously dejected Welch, outside the chambers said, “I guess they want me to lose money.” When asked what he would do next, Welch replied, “I have a lot of thinking to do.”
The consent agenda, consisting of the August 1 BOT meeting minutes, the June Clerk & Treasurer’s Report and Financials, consideration for a joint BOT/Economic Development Committee retreat, a resolution concerning the issuance of special event permits by the Town, and a BOT workshop for August 29 (to discuss the Boulder County Intergovernmental Agreement and a budget discussion) was passed. Then it was on to the main event: the recently enacted two-hour parking enforcement on Main Street. This public hearing and discussion went on literally for hours. No less than nine business owners and residents on Main Street spoke. Most spoke against the new ordinance, or offered ideas on how to tweak it: increasing the time limit to three hours, issuing parking stickers for residents who actually lived on Main Street, installing parking meters, having three hours from 3rd Avenue to 4th, and two hours from 4th to 5th Avenue. One business owner, Tim Combs, spoke in favor of the two-hour limit, citing the “bad old days” when “people would park cars and boats with for sale signs on them.” He also felt the problem was with employees who wouldn’t park on side streets that had no restrictions.
The Trustees listened to all arguments and opinions, discussed it with Simonsen, and heard from the recently hired Community Service Officer (the ticket guy). Bruder opined of the plethora of tickets that have been issued, “This negates all our goodwill that we have been trying to build up as a Town.” Van Domelen disagreed, citing the many parking tickets she herself has received while visiting Longmont, Boulder, and Denver (and there have been many, trust me) and said she felt no animosity toward those municipalities. She further added that this was not a “revenue generating idea” but rather she pointed out, “it was driven by complaints from many Main Street business owners.” She added that in walking Main Street that morning and afternoon to discuss the issue with business owners, she felt that the vast majority of them felt the ordinance was necessary and were in favor of it. In the end, it was agreed to keep the ordinance in place, as is, through Labor Day, and then have Simonsen and her staff look into tweaking options.
Steve Wratten, chair of the Utilities & Engineering Board, gave a succinct update and recommendation on a recently conducted wastewater treatment plant feasibility study. The recommendation was for the BOT members to first decide if they wanted to be in the wastewater treatment business. The options are to upgrade the existing facility, build a new one east of town, or hook into Longmont’s facility and let them deal with the problems. The Board decided they needed more information, and better, more defined financial numbers about the connecting to Longmont option.
Coco Gordon, chair of a Sustainable Futures subcommittee made a presentation about an “Eco-Machine” method of treating wastewater, and asked the Trustees to pony up $4000 (a match for $6000 she has already secured from interested donors) to bring in a “cutting edge expert” in the field for a three-day presentation in October. Everyone on the Board was eager to hear the presentation, but not to the tune of $4000, at least not with some “real financial numbers from municipalities who have gone this route.” Staff was directed to try to get the information get back to the BOT.
A brief discussion was held about the microphones and audio equipment used by the BOT, and a proclamation in support of Planet Bluegrass and their musical festivals was approved. Staff and Trustee reports were given (quickly), and the meeting was adjourned a few minutes before 11 p.m.