Summit County says no to Keystone recreational marijuana store
May 27, 2016
For now, Keystone will not be the site of Summit County's newest recreational marijuana shop.
The county's planning department ruled last Friday, Feb. 26, that a proposed retail outlet called Higher Function in the Quicksilver Commercial Site, located on U.S. Highway 6 at Tennis Club Road, does not meet the licensing requirements necessary to justify allowing the business to operate. The suggested store, the Review Authority stated in its decision, is "wholly incompatible with the needs and desires of the adult inhabitants of the neighborhood."
"There are two different criteria, zoning requirements and licensing requirements, that are considered," explained Lindsay Hirsh, planning manager on the review. "The decision is based on a balance between both of those, and the licensing lends itself to the denial. The licensing portion doesn't meet (the criteria)."
Higher Function now has until Friday, March 4, to file an appeal, which would be heard by the Board of County Commissioners as a quasi-judiciary panel. Should that appeal be made, the three commissioners, Thomas Davidson, Karn Stiegelmeier and Dan Gibbs, would hear the review from scratch.
The Summit Daily attempted several times to contact longtime Keystone resident Kelly McMurray, who is listed on the original application as the owner of Higher Function. In response to the Daily's inquiries, a man reached out and stated Higher Function did not agree with the planning department's ruling. The man spoke at length on behalf of the business. However, because the Daily could not confirm his identity or his link to the proposed business, we have not included his point of view in this story.
In the weeds
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County rules list eight components of criteria for consideration of an application for a retail marijuana establishment. One section notes the necessary compliance with all land-use regulations in the county's Land Use and Development Code.
For example, the proposed property must be at least 50 feet from a residence and no fewer than 1,000 feet from any public or private elementary, middle or high school, as well as college or university, among other distance limitations. At 21801 U.S. Highway 6, Higher Function meets all of the necessary zoning stipulations.
However, language in the rules regarding licensing, according to Hirsh, prevented approval for this marijuana-business request.
"The proposed establishment is not in harmony and compatible with surrounding land uses and could create a substantial adverse affect (sic) on these neighborhoods and use of the neighboring tennis complex," he wrote in the review decision document.
One of the key elements of the findings was the number of comments the planning department received during the 15-day public notice period. During this public commenting period, from Thursday, Feb. 11 to Friday, Feb. 26, a total of 478 emails, letters and phone calls were received, 326 of which — almost 70 percent — were opposed to the proposed pot shop.
To put that into context, the planning department cited cellphone tower installations, also with a 15-day notice period, as typically the next most-commented-upon projects. Occasionally, those can entertain a couple hundred depending on the proposal, and an active cell tower project under review had a dozen remarks.
Some of the most consistent complaints in comments regarding Higher Function included that the store would result in increased public consumption and traffic congestion in the area, that it would be located too close to nearby Keystone Resort employee housing and that it would decrease the property values of nearby residences.
The information listed in the application materials state the business's intentions are to keep a low profile and "to maintain Keystone's family atmosphere" by not advertising, marketing or putting up signs. Higher Function also volunteered not to sell edible marijuana.
"Discretion is our goal," reads the business's original letter of intent.
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