A hearing regarding a ban against marijuana businesses in Vader turned largely into a QnA session with developer Brandon Milton, as many residents have had little more to add to discussions since the ban was passed last year.
First approved by the City Council on Jan. 23, 2014, the temporary ban, enacted as the city completes research and procedures necessary to consider a permanent ban, has twice received a six-month extension, with the most recent extension approved Jan. 8 of this year.
A hearing held last Thursday to discuss the validity of the latest extension saw far less of the turnout other such hearings have seen from residents both in support of and opposed to recreational and medical marijuana, and at the request of Milton, who owns industrial property west of town where a proposed two-acre marijuana grow facility may go, the council agreed Milton could take the majority of the time allotted for the hearing to take questions about his development.
"I can be pretty specific to the ordinance, if that will be helpful to the framework of our discussion," said Milton, with officials noting the hearing was not regarding a specific marijuana development but rather the general idea of marijuana businesses in town.
According to the most recent information published by the State Liquor Control Board, Milton and four other prospective developers continue to await approval of a license from the board for four 30,000-quare-foot production businesses on Milton's property at 747 Atlas Rd. Two other potential sites in the Vader area for marijuana businesses (Gen-Ral Farms, a production and processing facility on the 100 block of Enchanted Valley Dr., and a Americanna Weed Co., a retail facility on the 1200 block of SR 506) continue to await license approval, as well.
During discussions, Milton referred to a section of the ban in which the city stated their reasons behind banning marijuana businesses, which included concerns about crime, neighborhood disruption, exposure of young persons to drug use, and the potential impact such businesses would have on city resources.
Milton asked the council if they have had an opportunity to research if such concerns have come to pass in other communities that have begun producing and selling legalized marijuana, such as elsewhere in Washington and in Colorado.
"Is this stuff happening? Is it not? Have you had a chance to do any studying on that?" he said. "I feel like we're in a better position not to see how this industry is turning out than we were last time we were talking about all this."
Council Member Kevin Flynn responded he has been reading different articles the issue, including a recent interview with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper in which Hickenlooper stated the new marijuana laws have not only presented challenges from within his own state but also neighboring states who are suing Colorado because of the volume of marijuana being smuggled across their borders.
"I haven't found anything that will change my opinion," said Flynn, who has been an outspoken supporter of a permanent ban against marijuana businesses. "All the information I have found and all the articles I've read and all the court cases I've read have reinforced where I've stood."
Milton stated he has not encountered such information himself and has instead found articles supporting the idea of marijuana businesses posing no harm to communities, and said there are a number of opinions on the matter that may be encountered when researching the topic.
Along the lines of concerns specific to Vader, Council Member Joe Schey asked Milton how he plans to mitigate the smells created by marijuana farms, as the site of Milton's proposed facility is directly next to a residential area, and respectively close to all other areas of the city given Vader's small size.
"Everyone in the entire city could be affected by ongoing odors, constantly," said Schey, stating noxious odors could lead to significant numbers of people moving out of Vader. "It could decimate the city, if it got out of control."
Though Milton stated he believed the issue of odor control was a reasonable concern, he redirected the conversation back to broad terms of the approval or disapproval or marijuana businesses rather than speak on how he would mitigate odors, stating such an issue was "in the category of what I'm going to term 'Regulation.'"
In previous interviews, Milton has stated his intention for the present would be to have an outdoor marijuana grow with no mechanical means of odor reduction in place, and to implement such measures after he is able to invest profits into further developing his property.
As Milton continued to speak broadly about how marijuana businesses would bring revenue and jobs into Vader and would pose no harm to the community, Flynn interjected and said he felt the council was being told "fairy tales," stating he felt no new information was being presented.
"If I have to go get the data, I will," he said in regard to claims made by Milton. "I'll go get the data and prove this is not true."
As is required after the hearing, the council is expected to discuss and approve a finding of facts summarizing what they feel was the essence of the hearing and how it will affect their decision. A permanent ban may be considered sometime this spring after further studies and hearings are conducted by the city. For a complete account of the hearing, including other comments from officials and the public, go to www.youtube.com/user/vaderwa.