WALSENBURG- The Huerfano County commissioners, looking at a deadlocked recommendation from planning and zoning, decided unanimously yesterday to approve a conditional use permit (CUP) for Wahatoya Farms, LLC for the county’s first legal marijuana grow. J.R. Burrell, representing the farm, seemed quietly relieved to have at last received a CUP from the county after jumping through numerous hoops, sidestepping roadblocks, and meeting recommendations for the past seven months. The grow facility will be built in a commerical zone in unincorporated Huerfano County, at 25462 Highway 160 (the old Weber Water building by the west entrance to Walsenburg). The facility is on city water and sewer with full electrical capacity. The Huerfano County Fire Protection Chief Gerald Jerant recommended to Planning and Zoning that the facility have a ventilation system and smoke evacuation system put in place in case of a fire, and Burrell noted the building has had that in place for a couple of months now. All three commissioners expressed personal
reservations about marijuana, but stated the voters of Colorado had spoken and it now was legal. Commissioner Ray Garcia, who made the motion to approve the CUP, noted there were several illegal grow operations already in the county, who are not following safety guidelines or restrictions, and are not paying any taxes on their product. He is hopeful that legal grows like this one will in time squeeze out the illegal ones. Burrell noted his business has tried very hard to use local suppliers for their building needs, and expects, in time, to hire five employees to work the facility. In other business, Commissioner Max Vezzani expressed his frustration with the fact that the county ambulance service has not moved into its new facility yet, despite assurances from building contractor Rick Johnson of Career Building Academy that the facility would be ready this week. Last week Johnson appeared in front of the commissioners and apologized for his students’ slow performance, blaming it in part on subpar work by local subcontractors. Vezzani made a motion directing County Administrator John Galusha to devise a plan to move forward and get into the building in the next few weeks, come what may. “We need to be able to move into that thing;” he said. “We need to know what the county’s options are.” Hug Farms, a community-based farm project located along the Cucharas River i south Walsenburg, signed a 30-year lease with the county. The prelimary 2015 budget for the county was handed to the commissioners, with a December 15 deadline to submit it to the state.