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Council hears GMS Northlands update

WALSENBURG — The city council adopted, on second reading Tuesday night, an ordinance that opens up various zoning districts to medical marijuana operations as uses by special permit or use by right. City council passed Ordinance 1041 unanimously 7-0, with council members James Baca and Cathy Pineda absent. Before that vote, the city council held a 6 pm public hearing on the issue during which no one, either in support or opposed to the ordinance, spoke. The ordinance allows potential medical marijuana entrepreneurs to apply for the special use and use by right permits for: 1) Medical marijuana centers as a use by right in areas zoned C-2, “Community Commercial District.” 2) Optional premises cultivation of medical marijuana and manufacturing of medical marijuana infused products as a use by special permit in areas zoned as a C-2 district; 3) Optional premises cultivation of medical marijuana as a use by right in areas zoned as AO – “Agricultural Open Districts;” 4) Medical marijuana centers and manufacturing, as a use by special permit in AO districts. 5) Medical marijuana centers, optional premises cultivation and marijuana infused-products manufacturing as a use by special permit in areas zoned as RO – “Large Lot Residential Districts,” and C-1 “Neighborhood and Tourist Commercial Districts;” 6) Manufacturing of medical marijuana infused products as a use by right in areas zoned L-1 “Wholesale-Light Industrial Districts.” The passage of the ordinance in no way diminishes any the state or local statutes regarding distances of medical marijuana operations from residences, schools or government buildings. City council members also heard a detailed update of the Northlands project from Jason Meyer and Ken White of GMS, Inc. consulting engineers of Colorado Springs. Council had sought an update on engineering expenses (Outlay Report) to date, as well as progress of project design, easements as well as areas of concern brought up by some city council members. Meyer and White explained the funding mechanisms to new council members and reported about $170,000 in services have been accomplished by the firm. GMS has not been paid on those invoices yet, and expect those payments will be made in the first installment of the USDA Rural Development Loan to the Northlands GID. Some concerns voiced by council members Clint Boehler and Craig Lessar centered on two septic tanks located on properties that are far from the proposed path of the main line, that, in the current plan, would remain active (and the city’s responsibility to maintain) until additional users on the line allow for those to be closed and reclaimed. Council members also voiced concerns about the closure and reclamation of the sewer lagoons in the Northlands area, saying the GID’s involvement of paying for their closure and reclamation unfairly enriches the private property owners. Discussions regarding the project will continue, and city council may have an executive session at their next regular meeting concerning the final easements with property owners for the lift station and Main Line construction. Council also briefly reviewed their brew pub ordinance in light of the recent purchase of a large downtown building across the street from the Fox Theatre, whose new owner is considering various options for its development.