Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Kim Glasscock
Editorial@lhvc.com 

Marijuana facility goes to planning commission

 

April 21, 2016



Boulder County Land Use planning staff is recommending that county Planning Commission members approve, with conditions, an application for a special use amendment and development plan to allow a retail marijuana facility at 6924 N. 79th Street in Niwot.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, at the Boulder County Courthouse, 1325 Pearl Street, Boulder, in the third floor hearing room. Public testimony will be taken at the meeting. Speakers generally will be limited to three minutes.

Planning Commission members are expected to make a recommendation to Boulder County Board of Commissioners following the public hearing. Commissioners will make the final decision on the application.

The Land Use staff recommendations were posted online on April 6. The full recommendations can be found at http://www.bouldercounty.org/property/build/pages/docketdetails.aspx?docid=991 .

Applicant Ernie Craumer of Colorado Real Estate Holdings originally proposed both a retail store and a grow facility for the Niwot building, but the cultivation facility was dropped from the proposal in March.

The proposed marijuana facility has generated opposition from some Niwot residents who formed a nonprofit group, No Pot in Niwot, to oppose the facility. That group states it is concerned about increased parking congestion and traffic issues, the presence of armed security and the possibility of crime since the business would be cash-based, along with noise, especially since the facility would remain open until 10 p.m. at night.

No Pot in Niwot also contends that a retail marijuana business is incompatible with adjacent residences and with the semi-rural character of Niwot. The proposed retail location is next to Countryside Condominiums on the south with 44 feet between the back of the building and the closest condominium.

In their recommendations, Land Use staff determined that there is sufficient parking available on the site and within Cottonwood Square Shopping Center, and found that the existing transportation and road system can handle any increase in traffic from the retail store.

The proposed development plan calls for filling in the openings to the building on the rear (south side) of the store so that all customers would enter from the front. Conditions proposed by Land Use staff would prohibit any lighting on the south side of the building, require the removal of a shed on the east side of the building, possibly relocating the existing HVAC unit to meet the setback requirements, and implementing the proposed landscape plan to help screen the building from neighbors.

Land Use staff also found that “there is nothing innately incompatible between locating a retail use adjacent to residential uses and staff has identified no direct impacts to the adjacent neighborhoods that would preclude this store from being compatible.”

Land Use staff also determined that the proposed retail marijuana store is also consistent with the Comprehensive Plan requirement for development to be compatible with the “semi-rural” character of Niwot. The proposed business facility “is physically scaled similarly to other local establishments primarily serving the local community and thus is sized appropriately for the local community,” according to the staff recommendation. Staff also found that a market study provided by Colorado Real Estate Holdings is “compelling” and demonstrates that there is a “viable market within Niwot for marijuana and that this business does not need to rely on drawing patrons from outside the Community Service Area.”

In response to security concerns expressed about the marijuana retail store, Land Use staff “does not find a compelling reason to differentiate a marijuana store from a bank, gas station, or veterinarian, all of which may be potential targets for criminal activity since they hold cash or controlled substances. All of these businesses exist in the immediate area. However, marijuana establishments have state requirements for security measures and the applicant has proposed to have on-site security to ensure safety within the store.”

NCA discussion

Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case briefly answered questions about the staff recommendation at the Niwot Community Association (NCA) annual meeting on April 6. He pointed out that Land Use staff had to look at the application “from a Land Use perspective.”

“The licensing process for a marijuana retail facility has many restrictions, but land use does not,” he said. “We go by the land use code and criteria.” Case added that Land Use staff brought the concerns raised to them by the public to Colorado Real Estate Holdings and eventually the cultivation operation was dropped from the proposal.

Marijuana license holders are held responsible for any problems at their store, Case explained, adding that the property owner is responsible for tenants following the rules.

Case said a license holder must renew each year and approval can be revoked if there are problems. “There would be an extremely thorough review if there were any problems,” he said.

NCA Vice President David Limbach presented results of the marijuana survey conducted April 3 to 12. The email survey was sent to 338 households; of those 203 responded. NCA members had a code they could enter to identify themselves as NCA members, and 171 households entered the code. The results from NCA members will be reported to Planning Commission and Boulder County Commissioners.

The survey asked about the proposed marijuana retail operation in Niwot and found that 63.2 percent of those responding were extremely against the proposal, while 16.4 percent were neutral and 7.6 were extremely in favor. Another 7.6 percent of respondents were slightly in favor of the proposed retail operation, while 5.3 percent were slightly against it.

Top concerns included that the operation does not fit the character of Niwot, traffic and parking, security and crime, increased access to kids and decreased property values. The full survey results, including those from all households, can be found on the NCA’s website at Niwot.org.

 

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