Retail marijuana, controversy comes to Keystone | SummitDaily.com

Retail marijuana, controversy comes to Keystone

Summit County received its first application to sell retail marijuana after proposed dispensary Higher Function requested a license in January. Because the business hopes to open in unincorporated Keystone rather than one of the townships, the county will decide whether the store receives approval.

The debate over retail marijuana has officially come to Keystone.

An application for a recreational marijuana dispensary inside the Quicksilver Commercial Site at the intersection of Highway 6 and Tennis Club Road is currently under review with the Summit County Planning Department. The request for the proposed business — named Higher Function and owned by Keystone resident Kelly McMurray — was originally submitted to the county this past September but was rejected after it was found to lack the prerequisite state approval.

With that conditional retail license now in hand from Colorado's Marijuana Enforcement Division as of Dec. 24, 2015, McMurray put forth the necessary paperwork to the county once again in early January and residents of the nearby Lakeside neighborhood were notified of the land use request by the county on Feb. 11. Because Keystone is an unincorporated area in the county, the license request must go through the county government and is the first of its kind.

That formal date of posting puts into action a 15-day public comment period and will conclude with a final decision by the department's review authority, led by planning manager Lindsay Hirsh, on Friday, Feb. 26. The posting initially stated comments were due by Thursday, Feb. 18 but has since been corrected.

"For the most part, the project just needs to be reviewed against the code provisions," said Summit County manager Gary Martinez. "However, the comments reflect back on matters concerning the code and are important."

A call to McMurray went unreturned, but, according to her letter of intent included with the application materials, she and her business partner are longtime Keystone residents and already possess several residential and commercial properties there. The document notes there are no other medical or retail marijuana stores in Keystone or unincorporated Summit County and that "they wish to fill a void in the legal and safe purchase (of) cannabis."

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She signed a lease for the 500-square-foot commercial space, previously a liquor store, at 21801 U.S. Highway 6 Unit #51 on Aug. 11, 2015, registered Higher Function with the Secretary of State's Office as a limited liability company on Sept. 9 and obtained a sales-tax license from the Department of Revenue on Nov. 10. The application notes the store intends to be open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

'FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORT'

The possibility of a retail pot shop in Keystone has already roused concerns within the community. The Keystone Owners Association (KOA) quickly organized efforts to ensure board members sent their opinions on the application to the county by the Feb. 26 deadline.

"Keystone prides itself as a family-friendly resort and has excellent programs for children," association member Revis Stephenson noted by email. "Having marijuana on the resort would be chilling to the future of Keystone.

"Any perceived financial gain through tax receipts or rental income," Stephenson continued, "will be lost by families deciding to visit resorts that are truly family-friendly — not resorts (with) rampant marijuana and other drug use."

Aside from individual citizens, other groups expected to chime in include the Keystone Citizens League, Keystone Neighbourhood Company and Vail Resorts, Inc., owner of Keystone Resort. Despite marijuana's legal status in Colorado, Vail Resorts, like many companies throughout the state, still maintains a strict drug policy in its employee handbook prohibiting the use of cannabis, warning of discipline, including termination.

A request for Vail Resorts' position on the retail store application was not returned by deadline.

Higher Function's letter of intent notes 150 members of the community, all of whom live or work in Keystone, supported the approval of the business by lending their signatures. It is also the business's intention to voluntarily avoid selling edible marijuana, as well as keep a low profile by not marketing the dispensary.

"Discretion is our goal," states the document of the location behind the grocery story and Shell gas station. "To maintain Keystone's family atmosphere, Higher Function will not advertise or put up signage."

Whether Higher Function's license request receives approval or is rejected, an appeal of the decision by either side of the issue may be made to the planning department within seven days, by Friday, March 4. If put into action, the Board of County Commissioners would then host a public hearing where the interested or affected parties would make their case for or against. It would then be up to the county's three commissioners to make a final decision on the business.

The county is currently accepting comments on the application through Friday, Feb. 26. Members of the community may send those to planner Sid Rivers, by phone or email, at (970) 668-4215 or sid.rivers@summitcountyco.gov.

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