Montezuma family proposes new marijuana dispensary near Keystone
Some nearby residents fear negative impacts
A Montezuma family is planning to open a marijuana dispensary in the Keystone area next year, but there is a group of residents who are strongly opposed to the idea.
The Becker family is proposing a new dispensary called The Tree Line off U.S. Highway 6 on Rasor Drive next door to the Mountain View Plaza, which houses Loveland Pass Liquors & Market and Dos Locos Mexican Restaurant & Cantina, among other businesses.
The family said it is hoping to create a new resource on the east end of the county, facilitating an easier marijuana-buying experience for residents in Montezuma and Keystone and for visitors.
“There’s a pretty big gap in the market here and an underserved community that doesn’t really have access to retail cannabis products, unless they want to do a 20- to 30-minute round trip into Dillon or Silverthorne,” Zack Becker said. “That draws both residents and visitors to Keystone out of the community; it pulls them away from the local businesses and takes revenue directly out of their pockets. … For the Keystone area that relies heavily on the tourist community, it seems strange that there’s no opportunity up here to keep that business here.”
The Beckers originally come from Rhode Island, but over the past five years, the entire immediate family has migrated to Summit County, including Zack; his brothers, Sam and Ben; and their parents, Tanya and Bruce. If plans for the new development come to fruition, they say it will truly be a family business with each member playing a part.
The Tree Line would be the family’s first venture into the marijuana industry, but family members said what they lack in formal experience they expect to make up for with a fresh perspective.
“I think that all of our collective experiences and our individual work has granted us the opportunity to gain a perspective where we can look outside the box on this and really build a business model and an environment that’s beautiful and really matches the ideal of Summit County and the surrounding communities,” Sam Becker said.
The Beckers say they want to create a high-end but accessible dispensary for all community members. The proposal calls for a 1,200-square-foot building with a wood-paneled design the owners believe would fit in well with the area’s aesthetic. Inside, they say they’ll have highly trained employees ready to educate customers on all of their offerings, which include a variety of flower, pre-rolled joints, edibles, topicals, tinctures, extracts and more.
The family says it is also dedicated to integrating into the community, planning to work with nearby property managers to ensure the business’s employees have affordable housing nearby, allowing local artists to feature their work on a rotating basis within the dispensary and prioritizing local suppliers.
“We really would like to feature as much local product as possible,” Zack Becker said. “It’s kind of a bummer that these amazing facilities exist, and they’re growing great products, and for some reason the closest dispensary they can get into is on the Front Range. So to not be able to share the fruits of Summit County with those up here seems like a shame, and we want to change that.”
Many community members in the area are concerned about a new dispensary opening up in the area. In September, the Summit County Planning Department rejected the Beckers’ application for a retail marijuana license, noting that the proposal was “not in harmony or compatible” with the surrounding community. The Beckers have since appealed the rejection, and there is another hearing on the application at the Summit Board of County Commissioners’ next meeting Tuesday, Oct. 12.
The public hasn’t been shy about sharing thoughts on the proposal. According to a staff report prepared by the planning department last month, the department had received 194 letters and emails pertaining to the license request, which were roughly split in half between those in support and those opposed to the dispensary. The report noted that those opposed were generally residents in the immediate area, while those in favor of the concept were predominantly from Montezuma or elsewhere outside the area.
Ken Riley, president of the Keystone Citizens League, said there was overwhelming opposition from the residents who would be living closest to the dispensary. Among other issues, residents have voiced concerns about parking, an increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic, property values, local children viewing the shop on a regular basis and the potential that some patrons will illegally consume the products publicly in the area.
Additionally, Riley said residents are concerned about how a dispensary would impact the character of the community. While the shop would be built directly adjacent to a liquor store, Riley said there are different perceptions of the two substances among residents and visitors and that a dispensary could harm the family-friendly image of the community.
“Residents have a perception that having this dispensary there is a large negative for the neighborhood,” Riley said. “… There’s a broader issue for the Keystone community of the image. A lot of the people who come to Keystone are coming from states … that do not have legalized marijuana. A lot of parents don’t understand legalization and have opposing views and will not go to a resort where that exists. That’s an issue on the broader side, but when you narrow it down into the neighborhood it comes down to, very simply, they believe a marijuana dispensary is inappropriate to place that close to a fairly large full-time resident community.”
Zack Becker said he was aware that some community members were opposed to the idea, and he and his family reached out to residents during the application process, which resulted in tweaks to make the size and design of the development more palatable.
Sam Becker said one of the family’s goals in opening the dispensary is to try to change some of those negative perceptions surrounding marijuana.
“The stigmatization and the lack of education around this market — this industry as a whole — is really one of the biggest problems we face,” Sam Becker said. “It’s really unfortunate because the more people get educated, the more comfortable they become. … We are struggling to make our voices heard as an industry. But I think that’s in the works of its own revolution, in that as we expand the market and really present this industry as the beneficial and positive force that it is, the education and the understanding will come.”
If the proposal is ultimately approved, the Beckers are tentatively planning to break ground next spring in hopes of opening the doors to customers in summer 2022.
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