Interest is high in prospective cultivation, manufacturing and testing operations
The Gunnison County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday in support of new regulations governing behind-the-scenes marijuana businesses in the county—namely, cultivation, manufacturing and testing.
“We’ve been getting calls with interest from all over the place,” said Gunnison County Community Development director Russell Forrest, who drafted the regulations for the county. The new regulations encourage manufacturing and testing facilities to set up shop within one of the county’s three industrial parks: Riverland, Gold Basin or Signal Peak. Given the likelihood that prospective cultivators might explore other locations in the county at large, there is a particular emphasis on compatibility of these operations with adjacent properties. Such businesses must be as inconspicuous as possible, according to a mandate within the new regulations. Forrest said he is confident that won’t present any problems with compliance. “These businesses want to be invisible,” he said. Odor, adequate utilities, fire safety and security are also addressed by the regulations. Gunnison County does not have specific land use zoning, but instead employs its own Land Use Resolution. It was the LUR that provided the primary guidance in creating the regulations. A handful of citizens attended the Tuesday morning hearing, and no one opposed the new regulations. “We plan to build a cultivation center at Gold Basin,” said prospective marijuana business operator Lou Constello, who explained that, since retiring, “I’m bored...” He added, “This is a clean, unobtrusive business. You won’t even know we’re there.” Costello asked the commissioners to reconsider its stance on prohibiting retail in the county at large, suggesting that the county is missing out on tax revenues. “Gunnison County doesn’t encourage any retail sales from any businesses outside the municipalities,” said Commissioner Paula Swenson, “because we don’t want to take business away from them, and because they have the infrastructure to support that.” County manager Matthew Birnie explained, “As a non-home-rule county, we don’t have authority to tax a specific industry.” He also said the county does reap some of the benefit of sales taxes collected within the local municipalities. Currently retail marijuana businesses in the county are permitted only in the town of Crested Butte. “Have we adequately addressed enforcement if we have complaints from neighbors?” asked Commissioner Phil Chamberland before voting on the regulations. Forrest assured him that the LUR framework provides for enforcement, as does the license renewal process. A marijuana business that moves into an existing building in an industrial park or a proposed new building less than 5,000 square feet will be subjected to administrative review before approval. Those looking to occupy a larger structure, or to locate outside the industrial parks must pass a minor impact review under LUR guidelines. Even within an industrial park, a marijuana business and a residence cannot co-exist within the same building. This prompted a question regarding possible exemption to the rule in Riverland, which is mixed industrial/residential. “Fire officials have said they’re not comfortable with that,” said Planning Commission chairman Kent Fulton. Forrest said that in 2012, Gunnison County citizens voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana in the county. The vote was 5,800 in support of legalizing marijuana versus 2,722 against legalizing. The city of Gunnison will vote in November to either approve or deny retail marijuana businesses within their city limits. Crested Butte already has three retail marijuana businesses in operation. “Gunnison County is now in the marijuana business,” said Swenson to conclude the meeting. “You can all walk across the hall and apply.”