Residents: Marijuana stink means property values sink | SummitDaily.com

Residents: Marijuana stink means property values sink

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

The High Valley Farms greenhouse marijuana cultivation center, located in Basalt across from the Holland Hills subdivision, is on notice from county commissioners to eradicate the pot smell that has upset nearby residents.

The smells haven't gone away and neither will the marijuana greenhouse that produces them — at least for now.

Pitkin County commissioners gave a stern warning to the owners and operators of High Valley Farms in Basalt on Tuesday: Either eradicate the cannabis aroma that has infuriated nearby neighbors or don't expect to be in business when the operation's annual license is up for renewal in September.

Commissioners will entertain the matter again at a meeting in mid-August. In the meantime, commissioners instructed High Valley Farms principals to extinguish the smells sooner than later.

High Valley Farms is licensed by the county for agriculture uses. It supplies Aspen-based Silverpeak Apothecary with marijuana for recreational and medical purposes. One condition of the license's approval is that the farm won't emit any smells to the detriment of the lifestyle of nearby residents.

But nearly a dozen neighbors appeared at the commissioners work session contending that their property values are sinking because of the stink. Many of them had the ears of county commissioners at a March meeting as well, leading to Tuesday's work session. "That smells like money to High Valley Farms," said Holland Hills resident Todd Emerson. "It doesn't smell like money to Holland Hills — it smells like property devaluation."

He added, "I'd love to sell my house, but where am I going to find someone to pay $1 million for a house that smells like marijuana?"

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Emerson and other neighbors' comments came after Jordan Lewis, CEO of Silverpeak and High Valley Farms, explained that multiple sources of smell-mitigation technology are being employed. He said he's confident that the stenches will be removed within 45 days to two months, with the placement of three different approaches to mitigate the smell. The greenhouse facility's exhaust system has been plagued by pumps not getting the right amount of pressure, nozzles getting clogged and other setbacks, Lewis said.

"I fully acknowledge that this is not where we need to be," he said, "and I understand the community's concerns."

But that wasn't good enough for some of the neighbors in attendance as well as Commissioner George Newman, who was opposed to the grow facility when it received county approval in August 2013 to build a 25,000-square-foot greenhouse facility for cannabis cultivation. The grow center opened last year.

"What I've heard is a lot of technical talk, trial and error and a learning curve involved, but the bottom line is throughout this entire process it's at the expense of the neighbors," he said. "I don't see how we can allow you to continue to operate at this level."

Residents said they can't enjoy outdoor barbecues or keep their windows open at night because of the smell.

"I think the madness needs to stop now," said Holland Hills resident Kent Schuler. Schuler suggested shutting down High Valley Farms and letting the smell-mitigation efforts be conducted elsewhere. Many neighbors and some commissioners likened the situation to lab work being done at their expense.

"But we are finished," Schuler said. "We've had it."

Commissioners Steve Child, Patti Clapper, Michael Owsley and Rachel Richards said they were willing to give High Valley Farms some more time, but the clock is ticking.

"You have a tremendous investment going forward on this project, but your neighbors have a tremendous investment in their homes," Richards said. "And for many of them, their home is their only investment. When people are saying this is affecting our property values and quality of life, that's a serious charge.

"You need to do everything you can if you're going to pass that threshold. There's nothing worse than over promising and under delivering. I know that's not your intent, but that's what's happening."

rcarroll@aspentimes.com