Breckenridge has started chiseling out its proposed downtown marijuana commandments.
The rules, if passed next month by the town council, will regulate pot establishments in the Main Street district.
Although council has been starkly divided on whether to allow marijuana businesses downtown, the members have been able to work well together and agree for the most part on what restrictions should go in place should the ordinance change come to pass. The current ordinance does not allow marijuana on Main Street.
Some of the proposed regulations members have agreed on address proximities. Pot businesses will not be allowed within 500 feet of a licensed child care facility, any public or private school building or any type of halfway house.
They can’t be located next to a residential structure unless it is a mixed-use building containing both businesses and residences. Marijuana businesses can’t operate inside a building that also includes at least one residential unit.
Council members have agreed since the beginning of this debate that they don’t want to allow pot businesses in the town core to be located on the ground floor. But split-level buildings, of which there are many downtown, complicated an otherwise simple restriction.
“They’ve clearly defined a split-level building,” said Kim Dykstra, director of communications for Breckenridge. “The council agreed that no retail sales marijuana business shall be located on any floor immediately above and immediately below the sidewalk located at street level of any split-level structure.”
As far as spacing, there cannot be more than one marijuana business per square block, and no two such businesses may be located within 100 feet of each other.
Using the above restrictions, there are seven or eight possible locations where a marijuana business could go downtown. But with the minimum distances between such businesses being set, the number of available locations could be affected after a new shop moves in.
There had also been debate among council members on whether to place a cap on the number of marijuana establishments in town. But they’ve now agreed not to place a cap.
“All councilors agreed not to set a cap on the number of businesses in order not to create an unfair value on the existing businesses,” Dykstra said.
“I think the retail market will take care of itself,” said Councilman Mark Burke.
Burke pointed out that at one time there were several marijuana dispensaries located in the downtown core, but that dwindled to one after some closed down or decided to move out to Airport Road, where four of the town’s five shops are located. There are currently four recreational and one medical dispensaries in town.
Also, in order to prevent a rush of outsiders wanting to open up shop in Breckenridge if the proposed rules pass, the council supports a moratorium of at least 18 months, preventing anyone new from obtaining a license from the city to operate a recreational or medical marijuana business.
“This is to make it fair for the businesses that are already here,” Dykstra said. “The council is not in favor of anyone new moving in and opening right away.”
So, during this proposed moratorium, only the four businesses already licensed and operating on Airport Road could even have an opportunity to move into the downtown core.
Breckenridge Cannabis Club (BCC) is the only marijuana establishment currently downtown. The future of its operation relies on the proposed rule changes. It wasn’t long ago when BCC was told it would have to move off Main Street.
Last year, the council voted 4-1 to eliminate pot shops from the downtown district. BCC was to have until this Monday, Sept. 1, to vacate its premises.
However, after elections earlier this year changed the composition of the council, the issue was re-examined. The council voted unanimously at a meeting in early August to extend BCC’s stay downtown until February 2015.
At one time the council wanted to let the voters decide the fate of marijuana on Main Street. But it has since decided to settle the matter itself. Currently, a narrow 4-3 margin of council members favors allowing it.
And during all this, the businesses located on Airport Road have been heavily invested in the final decision.
If allowed to relocate to the downtown district, they could likely gain more business due to the increased foot traffic in the core. Meanwhile, they’ve felt like the current situation, with only BCC being downtown, was unfair.
“I’ll be the first to admit it’s not fair to allow one business on Main Street and all the rest can’t,” said Councilman Ben Brewer.
The council plans to vote on a first reading of the proposed ordinance amendment on Sept. 23.
The second reading is slated for Oct. 14.
If the council approves a change to the existing ordinance, the restrictions ensure that the marijuana floodgates are not opening on the town’s core district.
“I’ll be the first to admit it’s not fair to allow one business on Main Street and all the rest can’t.”