Alamosa: No pot club for now

ALAMOSA — Citing concerns with zoning and code compliance, the Alamosa city council on Wednesday night unanimously denied the city’s first pot club request.

Colorado Creative Clouds had submitted a permitted use by special review request to open 24K, a private cannabis consumption club, at 507 Bell Avenue adjacent to Main Copy Source and just off Main Street across from Trinidad State Junior College.

The city currently bans the sale or manufacture of retail or medical marijuana in city limits. A private consumption club would not sell marijuana. Patrons would bring in their own. Colorado Creative Clouds proposed a club that would not (at least initially) allow smoking but would permit cannabis consumption through vaporizers or concentrate.

The city planning commission recommended denial, deciding this location was not appropriate because it is highly visible along the public corridor and does not have sufficient parking, bathrooms or dividing wall between this and the existing adjacent business, Alamosa Public Works Director Pat Steenburg explained.

Steenburg said the proposed club would need 15 parking spaces and only has nine, and it did not appear the business had made arrangements with neighboring landowners to use some of their spaces. The club would also need two bathrooms and currently only has one, he added.

If the club allowed smoking in the future, HVAC and ventilation could become issues, Steenburg added.

Steenburg said, “It’s not necessarily the use of the building. It’s the location. This is a use that’s not prohibited by our code, but it’s not allowed by right. You have the opportunity to compare it with other uses in the area, does it fit, is it a good location? It allows you to decide whether it’s appropriate.”

Councilman Ty Coleman said the reasons for denial on the planning commission’s and city council’s part were not particularly about the use of the building but were because the proposal did not meet the parking, restroom and potentially ventilation requirements.

“It’s a matter of that location not being the perfect fit for what’s required for the use,” he said.

Steenburg said another business at that site would also have to meet parking, bathroom and other code requirements according to its use and how many people would be using the building.

“I agree with the planning commission this is probably not the most ideal place for this type of a club,” Alamosa Mayor Josef Lucero said.

After Colorado Creative Clouds submitted its request, the city council passed a temporary moratorium (through September 30) on marijuana consumption clubs until the council can research the issue further and determine if it will allow such clubs at all in Alamosa and if so under what conditions.

If Colorado Creative Clouds wants to re-submit an application for this or another location it can submit the application but will have to wait until after the moratorium is over for the city to process it.

Councilman Charles Griego said since this is a new concept for Alamosa, the council is trying to determine how to deal with it.

A large contingent attended the April 19th city council meeting to show support for the application with several audience members speaking on behalf of the club, which they said would provide a safe and secure place for people to consume marijuana and would boost tourism and economic development.

For example, Sarah Gallegos said this would provide a safe place for tourists to come and for marijuana use to be controlled.

“I think it would really be a great thing for this community,” she said.

Robert Garcia added that if the city passed up this opportunity it would be like letting taxes and jobs go out the window.

Joshua Hendren, who ran for city council a couple of years ago, said when he was running for city council he mentioned several times that legitimizing these types of businesses in other cities like Denver or Colorado Springs has not increased crime rates but has assisted in getting marijuana use off the streets, which he believed would be a benefit here as well.

He added that he consumes marijuana to prevent seizures, and it has successfully prevented seizures for him for the past five or six years.

“If I could go somewhere and have a joint with someone just like having a beer with someone at a bar, that would be helpful, really nice,” he said.

Darlene Patton of Antonito, who manages the Steam Train Hotel across the street from this applicant’s club in Antonito, said the two businesses have been complementary. She said she would much rather have a guest who has just come from the cannabis lounge than someone who has been drinking at a bar.

“I think it’s a good idea,” she said.

She added that while people call marijuana a “gateway drug,” she considers more of “an off ramp drug” that people use when they are coming off opiates.

Melanie Garcia, who owns the 507 Bell Avenue property where the club was proposed, said the club would bring revenue to Alamosa. She added it would be monitored and only open to adults. She said although the club would be across from Trinidad State Junior College, many of the students who attend there are adults.

“We have legalized marijuana, so my question is where do we want the people to use it?” she asked.

Francisco “Cisco” Cordova, the CEO of Colorado Creative Clouds, added, “It’s legal here in the state of Colorado, so we should be able to do what’s legal here.”

He said he understood this was a big step for Alamosa but believed it was a step in the right direction and would bring revenue to Alamosa.

“If you keep an open mind and think about the big picture, we are just trying to do the safe thing and positive thing,” he said.

Shanna Hobbs spoke about other pending marijuana issues and said these types of businesses would generate revenue for Alamosa.

Two members of the audience spoke against the cannabis club proposal. Lorna Sowards, who operates a business in Alamosa, said she did not think Alamosa would benefit from having a marijuana club. She added she was concerned about the location across from TSJC, especially since she has college age children.

“I do not believe that this marijuana club would enhance the quality of life in Alamosa,” she said.

Sowards added that people who want to consume marijuana could go 20-30 miles to find places where they can do that, so it is not necessary for Alamosa to bring these types of businesses here.

Former long-time Alamosa Mayor Farris Bervig, who sits on the city planning commission, said private clubs for marijuana are completely contrary to his beliefs.

“Sorry if I offended somebody, but in this particular issue, that was my intention,” he said.

“Putting our arms around something like this is absolutely the wrong way to go as far as I am concerned,” he added.

Bervig said the planning commission denied the request for various reasons such as the parking, number of bathrooms, location near TSJC and a church and ventilation.

Councilman Jan Vigil thanked the people who showed up for the issue and encouraged them to come back since the council would be dealing with this and other marijuana-related issues again. He mentioned that petitions are being circulated to place marijuana questions on the ballot this November.

The matter was not set for a public hearing on Wednesday, but Councilor Liz Thomas Hensley said it was only fair to hear from Rosanna Atencio, who had previously represented Colorado Creative Clouds before the council and planning commission. Atencio asked if she could clarify some issues.

Atencio said she tried to get in touch with Steenburg concerning the restroom requirements, which she believed by code only required one since almost half of the space would be for storage. She added that the business had also come up with the 15 required parking spaces.

“We did try to attempt to answer questions,” she said. “We never got the chance to do that.”

She added that this type of club is already available in other communities and Alamosa has the opportunity to introduce this here.

“This is the next movement,” she said. “This is the way Alamosa needs to go. We are willing to take responsibility, accommodate whatever you are asking us to do.”

Caption: Francisco “Cisco” Cordova, the CEO of Colorado Creative Clouds, which proposed a marijuana consumption club in Alamosa, speaks to the Alamosa city council during its April 19 meeting.