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Council rejects medical marijuana dispensary distance change

WALSENBURG — Approximately 50 citizens attended the Walsenburg City Council meeting Tuesday night and several voiced concerns regarding a proposed ordinance that would have changed the 200 foot distance requirement between a medical marijuana dispensary and a private residence. The item was before city council after Maria and Pete Platt had sought to establish a business in the 1000 block of West 7th Street in the former Lenzini Motors/ Journey Home building. The proposed Ordinance 1043 would have allowed city council to adjust the 200 foot requirement at any distance, including zero. A handful of people spoke against any change during the citizen’s forum segment of the meeting and when the item came up for a vote, Maria Platt attempted to make the case for her family business, Plattinum Organics. Mayor Pro Tem Craig Lessar made the motion to leave the 200 foot requirement in place. Platt accused city council of playing favorites, saying zoning

changes adopted by the city regarding allowable locations for a dispensary favored Urban Smoken owners, Barbara Johnson and Jim Hillaker. Lessar explained the original ordinance only allowed a dispensary in C-1 commercial districts, but other locally imposed, and state distance restrictions adopted in the local medical marijuana ordinance (1020), effectively banned any dispensary in those zones. Platt said she and her husband’s efforts to obtain the old Pizza Hut building failed, and Urban Smoken moved in and got the location. Platt said prior to that, the zoning change was made just for Urban Smoken, and now they wanted the same favorable treatment. “Don’t say as a council we did something for one person,” Mayor James Eccher said during a somewhat heated exchange between both sides. When Lessar called for the vote, the ordinance failed six to two. Rick Jennings and Cathy Pineda were the only council members who had supported changing the distance requirement. Voting to keep the 200 foot requirement were Lessar, Silvana Lind, Nick Vigil, James Baca, Clint Boehler and Mayor Eccher. Council member Charles Montoya was not present. In other business, the council accepted, with regrets, the resignation of City Treasurer Carol Pennington-Roesch for health reasons. Council also voted to advertize the position and to make an appointment on or before April 30, 2014. Council turned down a suggestion by City Administrator David Johnston that Walsenburg’s Finance Director Carolyn Tice assume the position, saying they wanted to maintain a separation and a checks and balances system between the two positions. Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2014 R-2 that changes the job descriptions, requirements and mandates continued upgrade training for Water/Sewer Technician positions I, II, and III. Council approved the mayor’s signature to a letter to the Upper Huerfano Water Conservancy District expressing concern over historically-obscure water calls in the Welton Ditch that may impact the city’s water supplies. Council members said they have no belief the city water supply would be affected, but there was concern over irrigation water supply for the city-owned ranch as drought conditions are forecast for the coming spring and summer.