Dillon’s moratorium on retail marijuana came to an end Tuesday when the town council passed a series of ordinances adding regulatory language for business licenses, zoning restrictions and fees to the municipal code.
All three ordinances passed, 5-1, with Councilwoman Terry King registering the only opposing vote on each measure. Councilman Tim Westerberg was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Tuesday’s action does not change the town’s longstanding medicinal marijuana moratorium, which remains in effect. The new regulations also apply only to retail marijuana shops. Marijuana cultivation, product manufacturing and testing facilities are still prohibited in the town of Dillon.
Although the moratorium came to an end, the ordinances did not pass without spirited comments from local residents against the measures.
Linda Wimbush, who has been a registered voter and a taxpayer for more than 20 years and a property owner since the 1970s, said she thinks the town council was duped during a public forum in February into lifting the moratorium not by local residents, but by budding entrepreneurs from out of town who are eyeing Dillon as a home for new or expanding marijuana ventures.
“I noticed I was the only person who was a resident here that attended that meeting,” Wimbush said. “Other people who spoke ‘pro’ were not residents of Dillon or even Colorado.”
Amendment 64 did not place a mandate on Colorado cities and towns to open retail shops, Wimbush argued, saying the intent was simply to legalize marijuana. She questioned whether the town was deviating from its focus during the last several years of promoting Dillon as a family-friendly community.
“Dillon has spent a lot of money to stimulate business in the town and a lot of time making Dillon a family-friendly place,” Wimbush said. “Unfortunately, I’m seeing that Dillon is more interested in collecting taxes and licensing fees.
“Does the town really need the money that much to change the image of Dillon? What will our new business structure look like — the family that smokes together stays together?”
Wimbush ended her comments by urging the council to table the ordinances indefinitely and draft a ballot question placing the responsibility of lifting the moratorium in the hands of local voters in November.
“Let the people who reside here have the say, not the business people who want to fill their own pockets,” she said.
After the first two ordinances passed, Wimbush’s husband, Henry, walked up to the podium to ask who or what programs stand to benefit from sales and excise tax revenues.
“How are (personal) grows going to be enforced and how is the (enforcement) going to be paid for?” he asked. “You all have voted tonight like this is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but when the sun comes out the rainbow disappears, and so does the marijuana.”
Despite the Wimbushes’ objections, all three measures passed with little or no town council discussion.
In the weeks leading up to the vote, town planner Ned West outlined some of the regulations Dillon drafted for retail business licenses, zoning restrictions and fees.
According to those rules, retail marijuana shops would be permitted only in Dillon’s commercial and mixed-use zoning districts. Shops would be required to abide by a 300-foot setback from churches, parks, public open spaces and residences, as well as 1,000-foot setbacks from schools, child care facilities, college campuses, correctional institutions and public housing projects.
Taking those zoning and setback requirements into consideration, the town of Dillon has 24 parcels that could potentially house a retail pot outlet, but that doesn’t mean there are 24 vacant commercial or mixed-use buildings in town. None of the approved parcels is located in the town core.
The first-time fee for a new license is $3,000. Annual renewals would cost $1,500.
The ordinances go into effect Aug. 24. However, because Dillon banned medicinal pot following the passage of Amendment 64, it cannot accept retail business applications until Oct. 1, according to state law.