An Aug. 24 neighborhood compatibility meeting for a rural marijuana grow facility packed the Bayfield Town Hall meeting room and left people standing in the hall - probably the biggest crowd there in a very long time.
At issue was a proposed grow facility on a rural residential lot on Vista Lane, off County Road 503. It's about six miles northwest of Bayfield in the Homestead Ranches subdivision. Residents didn't want it. The main concern expressed at the meeting was the facility's potential water use and the effect on neighboring water wells.
A letter submitted by residents didn't mention that. They mentioned concerns about reduced property values and attracting crime to the relatively remote area where law enforcement response would be slow. Anyone can use Google Earth to find marijuana facilities and how to get there, they argued. They also objected to project funding by an unidentified partner.
County Development Director Damian Peduto raised the marijuana land use issue at the end of the monthly comprehensive plan update meeting on Sept. 1. Updates to marijuana related land use regulations were adopted in July, 2014, he said. Since then, he said, "We have recognized nuances of conflict with application of land use. It trickles through the organization. The use has been tested in the past year and a half."
The updates leave specifics to be determined for cultivation, infused products, and off premises storage. They prohibit marijuana facilities within three miles as the crow flies of the Bayfield and Ignacio town limits.
In the county land use code, all marijuana facilities are considered commercial uses, Peduto said. That includes growing, testing, creating infused products, and medical and recreational sales. "We have the regular argument from applicants (for grow facilities) that 'We are just ag.' We've made it very clear that we'll treat all these as commercial use."
If the proposed use is not in an area designated as commercial on the county's local area land use plans, the applicant will have to seek a change in the map designation, he said. The fundamental issue of a commercial use on a rural residential subdivision lot didn't come up at the Aug. 24 neighborhood meeting, he said.
"Compatibility is difficult," Peduto told county planning commissioners. Without traditional zoning in most unincorporated parts of the county, compatibility is a key factor in reviewing land use applications. He continued, "I want you (planning commissioners) to be prepared for this, because you'll be seeing a lot of map amendments, and we'll be making recommendations based on compatibility."
Planning staffer Dan Murphy advised, "The amount of people that come in (prospective applicants) is significant. They range from high-end developers from Denver to guys off the street. The scale of it is something we need to address. When you're looking at the footprint of a building north of 40,000 square feet on a 10-acre parcel... We're on a learning curve. These are significant proposals we're dealing with."