Summit County Holiday Inn opposes marijuana dispensary moving next door | SummitDaily.com

Summit County Holiday Inn opposes marijuana dispensary moving next door

Alli Langley
alangley@summitdaily.com

A Frisco marijuana dispensary plans to move to a building facing the Holiday Inn, and the hotel isn't happy about it.

Jerry Olson, owner of the dispensary Medical Marijuana of the Rockies, has expressed interest in buying the Holiday Center, the building between the Holiday Inn and Dillon Dam Road, from its current owner, Bob Haussman.

Olson wants to add recreational marijuana to his medical business and move it into some or most of the nearly 10,000 square foot, two-story structure.

The property, which was valued at $585,176 in the county's 2014 appraisal, houses Team Managers Ski and Bicycle Co. The rest of the building is now vacant after other businesses moved out in preparation for the sale.

“Believe me, I coached ski racing for a long time and if you can find a ski racer that doesn’t smoke pot, I’ll give you $100.”

Mayor Gary Wilkinson

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Holiday Inn representatives pleaded with the town council Tuesday, Jan. 13, as it reviewed updating medical and retail marijuana business codes, to consider how the dispensary would drive away the hotel's business.

They said most of the hotel's customers are families, not marijuana seekers, who would see the dispensary and look elsewhere for lodging.

Olson countered that the dispensary would have a positive, or at least a neutral, effect on the hotel, and the council seemed unlikely to amend town codes to the Holiday Inn's liking.

The council unanimously voted to move forward with changes to the town's marijuana codes that would make them more consistent with one another and with state regulations, striking some requirements now covered by state law.

Town attorney Thad Renaud said the changes were essentially overdue housekeeping.

'WHAT'S THAT SMELL?'

Holiday Inn urged the council to consider a dispensary's effect on the hotel's economic contributions.

Hotel manager Adam Pietraszek attended the meeting but was not one of the three hotel representatives who addressed the council. Pietraszek plead guilty in September to trespass and disorderly conduct after being accused of harassing a female hotel guest in February. *

One representative said the hotel has paid about $700,000 in occupancy tax to Frisco since 2008, and the business never asked the town for tax credits or loans even as it put $6 million into the hotel during the recession.

The Holiday Inn ended 2014 with about $4.5 million in room revenue, and about 90,000 Frisco visitors stayed at the hotel last year. Most of those guests are families, said Andy Bradford, the hotel's director of sales.

"'We get complaints all the time, you know, like 'Mom and Daddy, what's that smell in the hallway?'" he said. "We're already having problems with people just not appreciating that dank smell that's all over the place."

Teenage ski racers made up a large portion of the hotel's guests in November, Bradford said, and at least one angry parent called to ask staff to see whether teens were smoking in the hotel. If Olson's new dispensary opens, Bradford said, it would tempt teens.

"Hopefully they're not going to think about which guy is the easiest to bum a joint off of when he comes out of the store."

Bradford's two young daughters waited outside the meeting, and he offered to bring them in front of the council so the mayor could tell them about marijuana.

"When you have young children you just don't really want to have to explain that," he said.

Olson told the council that hotel guests know to expect marijuana in Colorado and that parents shouldn't keep their kids in the dark about cannabis.

"People who come here understand that this is a marijuana state," Olson said. "To avoid conversation because something is uncomfortable to talk about isn't the answer or the solution for dealing with the problem."

Olson later said he didn't understand the hotel's opposition.

"I see this as a win for them," he said. "They're going to make a lot of money from this opportunity."

TREATED DIFFERENTLY

The hotel also argued that a dispensary would impact its employee housing, which is critical to its business. Ten people, including a couple with a baby, now live in the facility.

Mike Oghorn, the hotel's lawyer, said the town code is meant to protect residents from the potentially negative effects of businesses like dispensaries.

The town currently prohibits marijuana businesses within 500 feet of residential dwellings, and because the hotel's employee housing spaces are defined as "accessory housing units," that protection doesn't apply.

Oghorn asked the town to consider changing its code so the hotel's employee housing would qualify for the distance limit. Otherwise, he said, allowing a dispensary across the parking lot would be treating those Frisco residents unequally under the law simply because they live in a commercial zone.

Town officials disagreed.

Though the council was revisiting which parts of town would qualify for the distance limits, even the stricter of two possible approaches on the table would not stop a marijuana business from moving next to the Holiday Inn, Renaud said.

Councilwoman Kim Cancelosi said she didn't want the town to change its residential dwelling definition for the hotel, and the hotel shouldn't expect its employee housing to be treated like a neighborhood or an elementary school.

"When you are in a commercial area you know the rules and regulations for commercial areas are different," she said. "What you're really talking about is the impact on your business."

NO NEGATIVE IMPACTS

Current town code doesn't establish a maximum number of marijuana businesses. Instead it limits where those shops can go based on distances from places like homes, schools and other marijuana businesses.

With the three pot shops now operating in Frisco and one in the works, said Jocelyn Mills, Frisco's community development director, a marijuana business couldn't open in another location unless one of the other four closed.

"We're basically at the limit," she said.

At the meeting, Mayor Gary Wilkinson and other council members shut down the hotel's arguments.

Cancelosi said a majority of Frisco voters approved marijuana, and the new Native Roots dispensary is already close to the Holiday Inn.

A pot shop is not across the parking lot from the hotel now, she said, and yet Holiday Inn is complaining about issues with minors and marijuana, issues that the town can't prevent.

"That is something that no regulation from this town council is going to be able to do. That's parenting and kids' choice," she said.

Marijuana draws some visitors and repels others, said Councilwoman Kathleen Bartz. She owned a 12-room hotel in Frisco for 14 years up until last April, she said, and she saw no negative impacts from pot.

Neither has the town of Frisco in its sales or lodging tax revenues, she said. "In fact the exact opposite, we've seen it rise."

Wilkinson said he didn't see a problem with a dispensary going in across the parking lot from the hotel.

Security cameras at the marijuana businesses deter minors, and the ones who use marijuana will likely do so regardless of how close a dispensary is to the hotel.

"Believe me, I coached ski racing for a long time," Wilkinson said, "and if you can find a ski racer that doesn't smoke pot, I'll give you $100."

* An earlier version of this story stated that Adam Pietraszek is the owner of the Holiday Inn in Frisco. He is a manager. According to an attorney for the hotel, Adam Pietraszek has not had ownership interest in the company since 2011.

OTHER POT LAW CHANGES IN FRISCO

The council also unanimously approved at the Tuesday, Jan. 13, Frisco Town Council meeting including vaporization and other nontraditional methods of heating tobacco, nicotine and marijuana products in its definition of smoking so that those methods would also be banned in places where smoking is prohibited.

“I would like to see that we add the vaping and smoking ban to other areas around the town,” said Councilmember Kim Cancelosi, in particular the Peninsula Recreation Area and its tubing operation, bike park and ball fields.