Commissioners, Metro discuss pot shops
Cooperation and communication between the Pueblo County Commissioners and the Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors was evident last week when Commissioners Terry Hart and Sal Pace attended the Metro meeting to talk about popular topics and take public questions.
“Since we’ve been in office,” said Hart, speaking about himself, Pace and other Commissioner Buffie McFadyen.
“We’ve had conversations about what we can do with all the communities in Pueblo County to show that we’re in this together. The reason we’re in office is to represent all our citizens as best we can.”
Hart and Pace said they wanted to attend the Metro Board meeting to address Pueblo West citizens and to hear their comments and concerns.
Both started by talking about some of the most popular topics – Conservation Trust Fund money and marijuana – and then took questions.
The hot topic of the evening for Commissioners – and what brought about 30 citizens to the meeting – was marijuana, specifically in Pueblo West.
Hart said he and the other commissioners noticed when they came into office that the vast majority of medical marijuana (and later retail) was located in Pueblo West, and they questioned why.
“The previous board – trying to understand where we are headed with this product – they set up land use requirements to protect residential, churches and schools,” Hart said.
“When you put the layers of all the restrictions, what that left over wasn’t rocket science. It showed the little main areas where licensing could occur was mostly in Pueblo West.”
Hart said the commissioners felt that “wasn’t quite right,” and so they’ve been looking for ways to tweak the land use regulations to potentially open up other portions of Pueblo County to licensing.
Still, Hart, Pace and McFadyen are aware that the majority of marijuana business is in the Pueblo West community.
“Our questions now are, can we find a way to take some of the proceeds coming from this and go back into the community it’s coming from?” Hart said.
“The first level has to cover licensing and then enforcement, but after that, we have discretion and that’s what we want to talk about.”
Pueblo West Director Jerry Martin asked the commissioners whether enough marijuana sales tax revenue has been received at this point to covering the licensing and enforcement portions, so that conversations can be had about what to do with future money.
“We think so,” Pace said. “I think it’s critically important that we spend a good chunk of that money where most of the businesses are. So I think it’s important to identify projects – probably road projects because that’s what we hear is the biggest need from voters – and that we should spend a big chunk of that on roads in Pueblo West.”
Several Pueblo West citizens spoke, noting that they were concerned particularly about the safety of children in the community with marijuana shops nearby, and commenting that they did not vote in favor of legalized marijuana and want to keep it away.
“I urge you to think about future deliberations,” said Paula McPheeters. “We don’t care about tax revenues. We care about our community. We want to see a long-term economic development plan for Pueblo West that goes beyond pot shops.”
The commissioners reminded all the citizens in attendance that all their considerations of marijuana shop licenses are part of publicized public meetings, and that citizen comments and participation are always welcome.
“When we do licensing of alcohol and marijuana, it’s incredibly rare that someone shows up,” Hart said.
The other most popular topic that commissioners discussed during their time at the Metro Board was CTF money, which is from lottery sales, given to county governments by the state.
Hart noted that in the past, some seemed to think that putting money into Pueblo West’s golf course was “enough and the best we could do.
“We’re trying to take a look at how much money comes from jurisdictions and how much is going back into them, and are we doing a fair balancing act?”
Hart said his proposal includes getting a “lay of the land” in determining what the projects are countywide and prioritizing them. (CTF can only be used for parks and recreation projects).
He also proposes a long-term contract with policies and procedures about how to budget fairly.
In the County’s 2013 budget, $80,000 of CTF was set aside for Pueblo West, and another $80,000 has been promised for 2014. Directors for Pueblo West said that money will be used for final pieces of Civic Center Park and then toward a new community park on the north side of Pueblo West.
Pace also touched on roadwork in Pueblo West, noting that he understands roads are a major concern for many Pueblo West residents. He listed several road improvement projects planned for the coming years including major work on Purcell, both north and south, and on the roundabout planned for Platteville.
“On the chip seal program, I’m excited that for the first time in awhile we have County Public Works employees out here in Pueblo West working regularly,” Pace said.
“I’m excited as a county commissioner to feel the collaborative atmosphere with Pueblo West.”