SAGUACHE — Both the Master Plan developed by the county as well as the Strategic Plan clearly show that while Saguache County officials have proposed laws favoring landowners for consideration, such consideration has never materialized.
In addition, the often-expressed desire of many county residents that commissioners become more transparent in conducting county business is not reflected by recent events. And as pointed out to commissioners by the strategic planners they hired in 2014-2015, the county’s managerial staff is not prepared to implement the strategic plan as proposed, (far less administer the complicated process of evaluating, approving and policing marijuana grows).
That seems unlikely to change anytime soon, since the county’s efforts to find an administrator could take “months,” according to one unconfirmed report. And in the meantime, administration has not yet announced who will be running the county now that Lyn Zimmer-Lambert has retired — the remaining Co-Administrator/Land Use Director Wendi Maez or an interim administrator.
The recent 120-day marijuana moratorium approved by commissioners to focus on adjusting the marijuana regulations may not be long enough to do the work it will take to address the real issues. As stated last week, first a Landowner’s Bill of Rights should be considered before even touching the regulations, since this would automatically resolve many existing issues.
But secondly, it appears the county has some fundamental discrepancies and inconsistencies to address which exist between the Land Use Code regarding Conditional Use Permits (CUPS) and marijuana regulations. These are rooted in the manner in which the county has written the marijuana regulations, but also exposes some seemingly contradictory issues within the Land Use Code itself. The following points can be made after reading the Land Use Code and applicable legal materials:
The comments made at hearings conducted by the BoCC before approval of CUPS or at the time of the SCPC review, if such hearings are formal, should be limited to applicants and those landowners adjacent to the cultivations, not opened to others attending these meetings who do not have a specific interest in the CUP. This is according to standard practices.
Other counties in Colorado regularly schedule public hearings for most CUPS. It appears that even despite the fact adverse comments are received by adjacent landowners, Saguache commissioners choose not to schedule such hearings. Perhaps this is why 29 CUPS have been approved within a short period of time. Hearings take time and can lengthen the process, but allow everyone with an interest the right to have a say.
“12-43.4-302. Public hearing notice - posting and publication
(1) If a local jurisdiction issues local licenses for a retail marijuana establishment, a local jurisdiction may schedule a public hearing on the application. If the local jurisdiction schedules a hearing, it shall post and publish public notice thereof not less than ten days prior to the hearing. The local jurisdiction shall give public notice by posting a sign in a conspicuous place on the license applicant's premises for which a local license application has been made and by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the applicant's premises are located.”
“(1) Local jurisdictions are authorized to adopt and enforce regulations for retail marijuana establishments that are at least as restrictive as the provisions of this article and any rule promulgated pursuant to this article.”
Planning commission meeting agendas are listed on the county’s website, but few even realize they have the right to protest CUP approvals at these meetings, nor to the best of this writer’s knowledge has any process for such protests ever been outlined for them by the BoCC or SCPC. These property owners deserve official notice by the county of upcoming CUPS with a description of what those protesting may or may not present as “reasonable.”
Included in this letter should be the reminder per Art. 1-1.5.5 that any citizen opposing the decision may appeal “as provided by law,” and the “law,” with any applicable time limits, should be specified. All citizens deserve the right to due process and equal consideration under the law. In limiting citizen comments at various meetings and refusing to consider valid objections to applications, these basic rights have been denied Saguache County property owners.