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Vader renews marijuana ban amid talks of regulations

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The Vader City Council has chosen to renew a temporary ban against medical and recreational marijuana facilities as officials begin discussion possible zoning and nuisance regulation amendments.

Originally passed Jan. 23, the six-month ban, prohibiting all production, processing and retail facilities, was renewed for another six months during the council’s Thursday meeting in light of continuing uncertainties from rapidly-changing state laws and ongoing litigation regarding the issue.

The ban has come amid a proposal from Seattle developer Brandon Milton, who has been seeking since last fall to establish marijuana production and processing facilities within Vader’s industrial district.

“We’re being extremely cautious and meticulous in our efforts to proceed legally with the rights that the City Council has,” said Mayor Ken Smith, referencing a Jan. 16 opinion by State Attorney General Bob Ferguson stating, while I-502 legalized recreational marijuana last year, it did not prevent municipalities from passing bans against such businesses.

Prior to the ban, Vader had passed zoning regulations Dec. 17 allowing recreational marijuana business only within the industrial district. Smith, however, vetoed these regulations on the grounds he felt better alternatives existed for the city, and the council affirmed his veto Jan 9.

But potential zoning regulations are back on the table as the council examines Colorado’s experiences with legalized marijuana and its effects on small communities.

Council Member Joe Schey shared articles from Denver-based KKTV and The Denver Post detailing complaints about foul odors filed by residents living near marijuana grows, stating producers in those areas are being advised to seek out technology such as activated carbon air filters to prevent odors, pollen and spores from being expelled into the air.

“We have an industrial area, but we don’t have any rules associated with it,” said Schey, stating he feels regulations need to be put in place not only for the purpose of marijuana businesses but other potential industries, as well. “If we’re going to have a zoning ordinance for marijuana, we need to specify certain standards. Whether that be odor control situations, or water discharge into our sewer treatment facility, we need to have certain standards.”

Don Davidson, who has been employed as a head grower by Milton, told the council he feels such regulations would go too far and accused officials of being “ignorant,” stating he is already expecting to take steps to mitigate potential odors and pollution from the facility. He later described how enclosed buildings would have air filters, as are already required by state law, while the outdoor growing areas would be mitigated by natural barriers and the planting of aromatics, such as mint, to mask potential smells.

He also told officials he feels additional regulations would do more to drive businesses away from the area at a time when Vader has a very small economic base.

“It’s not just a simple, ‘We need some jobs,’” replied Schey, stating clearer regulations are needed for the industrial zone to maintain public safety and local quality of life.

Smith said the council will also need to consider the findings of the Shoreline Master Plan study, commissioned in 2012 to fulfill a state mandate, stating the industrial zone will be impacted by the study’s findings due to its proximity to Olequa Creek and Stillwater Creek. Smith said he expects to receive a report from Gray and Osborne summarizing the study within the next month or so, adding the council will be in a better position to consider a permanent ordinance replacing the ban at that time.

“Carol Morris, our city attorney, would encourage the council to not take the whole six months,” said Smith of the ban’s timeline, as it had previously been stated a repeated renewal of the ban without a permanent ordinance would potentially be grounds for a suit against the city.

A public hearing to discuss the renewal of the ban has been scheduled for Aug. 28 during the council’s regular meeting, and those with questions or in need of accommodations may call (360) 295-3222 beforehand.

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