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Meeting on potential marijuana sales in Bayfield draws big crowd

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Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018 11:32 AM
Pastor Scott Kujath of Pine River Church addresses a public input meeting of the Bayfield Town Board on Tuesday. About 100 people attended the meeting to present opinions on legalizing retail marijuana sales in town limis.

Not in Bayfield.

That was the message people brought to a town forum in Bayfield Tuesday night regarding retail or medical marijuana sales in town limits.

Citing the potential increase in crime and homelessness, a majority of speakers at Bayfield Town Hall asked the town board not to lift the law banning sales in town limits.

"It's going to tear this town apart," said Roger Warner, who moved to Bayfield from Leadville, which has dispensaries in town. "They're out of their minds up there."

Added Jerry Abernathy, "we don't need that here...There's a dark element that comes with it." "I wouldn't trade additional tax revenue for more drugs in our schools," said Mike Foutz, a member of the Bayfield School Board.

Matt Hoffer, however, asked the town trustees to consider removing restrictions on cultivation within the three-mile boundary around Bayfield town limits, saying it restricts landowner rights. That would also be a compromise between a total ban or allowing sales in town, he added.

Two other residents spoke in favor of cultivating marijuana in the area, but said retail sales shouldn't be allowed.

Retail sales in Bayfield could raise between $50,000 to $200,000 in tax revenues, Town Manager Chris La May estimated at the beginning of the meeting. The board has three options regarding marijuana sales: leave the ban in place, vote to overturn the ban, or put it up to a vote for the residents of Bayfield.

About 100 people jammed into Bayfield Town Hall for the meeting There were a few voices in favor of sales in town.

"Marijuana has been widespread in this town" for decades, said Jackie Morlan. "I want to thank you for taking a big risk to have this public hearing," she told the town trustees. Marijuana sales are an opportunity for Bayfield to move forward, she said.

"We're giving sales tax revenues to other towns," said Molly Orendorff. "The town needs all the revenue we can get."

That sentiment was overridden by most speakers.

"Why are we here again?" asked John Beebe, adding that town residents' views on marijuana sales haven't changed drastically in the past few years.

Several mentioned the increase in the homeless population in Durango and said they don't want to visit downtown Durango anymore. Any revenue raised by retail sales would be offset by rising costs for law enforcement and emergency services, many people said.

A staff report on potential sales is on the town's website, www.bayfieldgov.org, under the "Hot Topics" button.

Town codes currently prohibit the licensing or operation of marijuana cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities, testing facilities and retail marijuana stores and related uses.

The town also prohibits medical marijuana centers, commercial cultivation operations or medical marijuana infused products manufacturing businesses. At its Dec. 19 regular meeting, the board of trustees voted unanimously to re-evaluate the prohibitions.

Ignacio also bans retail and medical marijuana sales. Retail sales are allowed in Durango, Pagosa Springs and other towns throughout the state.

Tuesday night's meeting was only for public input. Town trustees did not take a vote on lifting the town ban on sales. About 23 people spoke against lifting the ban, six spoke in favor of in-town sales, and three asked for the town to remove the cultivation ban in the three miles beyond Bayfield town limits.

"The reason this was brought up was because of a citizen request," said Mayor Matt Salka. "We wanted to hear what you had to say." He thanked everyone for attending, noting that town board meetings rarely attract more than a handful of people.

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