It may have unforeseen consequence of land use, but a group of Pueblo West residents are putting pressure on the Pueblo County Board of Commissioners over the proliferation of marijuana stores in their community.
Commissioners were confronted at a recent meeting of the Pueblo West Metropolitan Board by a number of residents frustrated with what seems to be a flow of new marijuana licenses in Pueblo West.
“This wasn’t in my life plan to be doing this right now,” said Paula McPheeters. “I didn’t anticipate how much (marijuana) would change Pueblo West.”
McPheeters said she’s lived in Pueblo West over a decade and moved to the community because it offered a rural lifestyle.
When medical marijuana was legalized, followed by recreational marijuana, the county adopted a land-use code that limited stores to property zoned for specific retail uses.
Now, many licensees are looking to Pueblo West to open their shops, largely in an area just north of U.S. 50 West.
“The way that the zoning laws are for marijuana, there weren’t a whole lot of areas that were open,” said Commissioner Sal Pace, who’s been one of the leads working on the marijuana regulations with the county.
“The result is businesses looking for spaces found a lot more zoned in Pueblo West than a lot of other places in the county,” Pace said. “It was an unintended consequence.”
But Pace said it’s also a consequence of prohibition in the city.
The city had enacted a moratorium for both medical and recreational marijuana centers. Businesses, looking to access the Pueblo market, concentrated on Pueblo West and, to a lesser degree, the St. Charles Mesa.
McPheeters delivered a letter with the signatures of 40 Pueblo West residents upset with the number of marijuana shops opening in the community and frustrated at an inability to provide input and opinion about the licensing.
When applicants request a marijuana license, they eventually end up before the county commissioners.
Last week, commissioners suggested expanding the public notice of these hearings to include publishing in The Pueblo West View as well as The Pueblo Chieftain .
“I think the No. 1 thing we’d like to see is that they actually listen to people,” McPheeters said. “Maybe an ordinance could be developed to give us an opportunity to see what they’re thinking. We don’t want to see the blank check approvals.”
McPheeters said she’d like to see more meetings about licenses at times when people can actually attend.
The commissioners hold their regular board meetings at 9 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, when most people are working.
McPheeters also referred to the amendment legalizing recreational pot, which allowed for local governing bodies to decide for themselves whether to accept marijuana in their communities.
The metro board was recently presented with a resolution calling for an end to any more marijuana businesses, but denied it.
McPheeters said she believed the metro board was pressured by property owners who see the shops as potential tenants for their empty buildings.
McPheeters said she’d like to see some way to provide more input on the matter, possibly forming a task force to investigate the value of the industry for the community.
She said there is no formal opposition yet, but after the meeting at the metro board, one could be forming.
“I’m a little late to the ball game, as many folks are,” she said “It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop looking for answers and I don’t think we got any answers Tuesday night.”
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