No cannabis club recommended

ALAMOSA—Alamosa planning commission members Wednesday evening unanimously recommended denial of a special use application for a cannabis consumption club at 507 Bell Avenue.

City staff also recommended denial. The request and the staff and planning commission’s recommendations will move on to the Alamosa city council on April 19. The city council will make the final decision.

Colorado Creative Clouds Inc. requested approval of a permitted use by special review application for a cannabis club next to a copy center across from Trinidad State Junior College.

Alamosa Public Works Director Pat Steenburg told the planning commission that although the city council has now placed a temporary moratorium on cannabis clubs, this application came in before the moratorium was in place.

“This is a perfectly legal application for what is right now a perfectly legal business,” Steenburg said.

Applicant presents case
Rosanna Atencio, Antonito, representing Colorado Creative Clouds said the state of Colorado allows these types of clubs, and there is already an existing club in Antonito, which the town board recently renewed the license for. She said the club in Alamosa would generate tourism.

It would also provide a safe place for people to consume cannabis. It would be a “bring your own” club, Atencio added.

She said she considered this a great location that would encourage foot traffic, and the business would provide a shuttle service as well.

Atencio said there are medical and recreational facilities where people can purchase marijuana, but there are few places they can consume it because it is not permitted on the college campuses, parks, other public areas, rental properties and housing units.

“We definitely don’t want it on public streets and public parks,” she said. “This would give people a place to be responsible, give them a safe place to go.”

People enjoy coming to Alamosa for the mountains, sand dunes and other outdoor activities. This would provide a safe place for them to consume cannabis while here, Atencio said.

Daniel Avila also supported the application. He said this would bring revenue to Alamosa and keep marijuana off the streets. It would give people peace of mind that they could consume cannabis in a safe, controlled environment, he added.

Opponents share concerns
Dr. Terry Wiley said this is not a family friendly business, as Atencio had described it. He shared concerns about liability for patrons and questioned what would happen if customers had a bad trip and needed to go to the emergency room.

“I think the city needs not to be hasty at all in making a decision,” Wiley said.

Dr. Martin Sowards, who has a medical practice in Alamosa, said, “I think we have enough addiction in this world already.”

He said although this was a legal business, it did not have a place in Alamosa.

“Personally, I don’t want it in the city,” he said. “I see plenty of addiction in my office. I don’t see this helping Alamosa at all.”

Andy Lavier agreed.

“This isn’t what I want Alamosa to be known for,” he said.

He said he wanted Alamosa to be known for things like the railroad and wildlife, and a cannabis club right off Main Street is not the reputation he wanted Alamosa to have.

Sheryl Bacon, a nurse practitioner at the hospital, said when marijuana first became legal, the focus was for people to use it in their own homes, “and people could do what they wanted in the privacy of their own home.”

This is different, however, she said.

She said already there is a problem with people who have moved here because marijuana is legal, and they have health problems, which the high altitude does not help, so they wind up in clinics and hospitals.

She said there probably would be some revenue from such a club but questioned, “Is it only about money?”

She added that she was not totally against marijuana use and does prescribe it for patients in a controlled environment.

“It has uses,” she said.

However, she encouraged the planning commission to “weigh heavily” whether the cannabis club was an appropriate decision.

Lorna Sowards questioned that this type of business was something the city wanted to promote for Alamosa.

She said on its web page, the City of Alamosa calls itself the “gateway to the sand dunes,” and she questioned whether it wanted to become the “gateway to the gateway drug that marijuana is.”

She added that she was concerned about the business being across the street from Trinidad State Junior College and as a mother of a college student would not want her child attending a school so close to such a business. She wondered how many other parents might decide not to send their children to school there if that was the case, which would offset any revenue the business might bring to the city.

“I do believe in free enterprise,” she said, “but this marijuana special use permit club should not be allowed in the city of Alamosa.”

Robert Martinez represented TSJC at the planning commission hearing. He said the college administration has concerns about this business being located across the street. He said TSJC relies on Title IV funds, financial aid, which includes drug and alcohol prevention programming.

“As we are trying to promote drug and alcohol prevention awareness, this type of business would kind of deter that,” he said.

Hobbs responds
Shanna Hobbs responded to those who opposed the application by saying if they were against marijuana, they didn’t have to use it, but this was a legal business. She said these people have a right to open a business just like similar businesses have opened in other communities in southern Colorado.
She said people buy cannabis in other towns like Trinidad and Walsenburg but when they come here, there’s no safe place for them to use it.

Hobbs added that much of the addiction problems began with doctors writing prescriptions that lost their efficacy over time, so people turned to other resources.

She added that she sees people every day who need marijuana for medical uses and would be suffering immensely if they did not have it. She operates a medical marijuana facility just west of Alamosa.
She said people should be able to alleviate their suffering in the manner they choose, not dictated by other people.

She added that she was circulating petitions to put marijuana questions on the city ballot so people would have safe choices and to deter the black market for marijuana.

Planning commission discusses issues
Planning Commissioner Shirley Adcock asked about the effects the smoke might have on the business with which the club would share a wall. Atencio said customers would be using vapors, not smoking cigarettes. In addition, the club would use fans with carbon filters, she said.

Planning Commissioner Farris Bervig had multiple concerns about the application including land use and comprehensive plan compatibility, public health, fire danger and code compliance. He added that Alamosa does not need to finance the city with something that is harmful to people’s health.

“I am 100 percent against what you are trying to do,” he told Atencio.

He and Adcock questioned the number of bathrooms. Currently there is one restroom, but Atencio said the applicant would be willing to put in another bathroom depending on how the club would be categorized, which would determine whether another bathroom was needed.

The club could be considered a private club, for example, which is how it would be viewed under the city’s existing ordinances. The reason the council enacted a temporary moratorium is because the city ordinances do not provide for cannabis clubs at this point and the council wanted time to sort out the issue.

Adcock also questioned the number of parking spaces for the proposed business, which are currently nine but would need to be 15 to meet code requirements. Atencio said nearby businesses’ parking areas would be available during the peak hours for the club, which would be when the other businesses were closed. She said the businesses had given permission to use those spaces after hours.

Adcock said the business proposes to be open from 10 a.m. to 10
p.m., which would include time when the neighboring businesses were open.

Adcock said the parking and bathroom situation were issues of concern, as was the common wall between the proposed club and neighboring business.

The group also discussed how the business would affect the police force and if extra surveillance might be required. Atencio said Antonito had not had any problems with the club there in nearly a year’s time. Steenburg said there probably would be extra police activity when the club first opened.

Atencio said people would have to show ID’s at the door, and the business would plan to open with a doorman who would check ID’s and a manager.