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LARIMER COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION
Minutes of February 16, 2011
The Larimer County Planning Commission met in a regular session on Wednesday, February 16, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. in the Hearing Room. Commissioners’ Cox, Dougherty, Hess, Miller, Wallace, and Weitkunat were present. Commissioner Hart presided as Chairman. Commissioner Glick was absent. Also present were Matt Lafferty, Principle Planner, Michael Whitley, Planner II, Eric Tracy, Engineering Department, Doug Ryan, Health Department and Jill Wilson, Planning Technician and Recording Secretary.
The Planning Commission went on a site visit today to Natures Medicine Special Review.
COMMENTS BY THE PUBLIC REGARDING THE COUNTY LAND USE CODE:
COMMENTS BY THE PUBLIC REGARDING OTHER RELEVANT LAND USE MATTERS NOT ON THE AGENDA:
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES FOR THE JANUARY 19, 2010 MEETINGS: MOTION by Commissioner Cox to approve the minutes, seconded by Commissioner Dougherty. This received unanimous voice approval.
AMENDMENTS TO THE AGENDA:
CARING TOUCH NETWORK SPECIAL REVIEW #10-Z1782: The application was tabled to the March 16, 2011 Planning Commission hearing at the request of the applicant.
ITEM #1 NATURE’S MEDICINE SPECIAL REVIEW #10-Z1806: Mr. Whitley provided background information on the request for a medical marijuana dispensary and grow facility in the C-Commercial zoning district located at 418 8th Street, SE Units A5-6 in Loveland. The request also included an appeal to Sections 4.3.3.F.1 and 4.3.3.G.1 of the Larimer County Land Use Code to allow a dispensary and grow facility to be within 500 feet of two occupied and two unoccupied residences. Mr. Whitley explained that Natures Medicine opened the dispensary on the subject property in December, 2009 without receiving prior zoning approval. A Code Compliance hearing was held on June 21, 2010, and the Board of County Commissioners found that a violation existed but allowed the business to operate during the Special Review application process. The business changed ownership several times and was now known as Organic Roots. The existing business was a medical marijuana dispensary with no on-site cultivation. The Special Review application was seeking to legally establish the dispensary and seek permission to cultivate up to 500 medical marijuana plants within Units A5-6. The proposed hours of operation were Monday through Saturday from 11am to 7pm, and the dispensary was proposing to service a maximum of 300 patients. The dispensary would have up to 10 employees and up to 40 patients visiting per day. The dispensary currently utilized five video surveillance cameras inside the building. Mr. Whitley noted that a number of commercial condo owners and tenants had objected to the proposed use citing concerns
regarding parking, noise, trash, property values, and potential crime. Mr. Whitley also noted that the property was within the City of Loveland Growth Management Area. The City of Loveland was recommending denial and noted that at the November, 2010 election the residents voted to not allow medical marijuana centers in the City of Loveland. The Development Services Team was recommending denial of the application.
Commissioner Weitkunat asked what would happen if the Special Review was approved and then annexed into the City of Loveland.
Mr. Whitley stated that it would be up to the City of Loveland. He noted that all established medical marijuana centers had to cease by March 1, 2011 and believed the proposed business would also have to abide by the City law.
Scott Oliver, represented the owner, Jason Specht, who took over the business in June 28, 2010. He explained that there had been some negative issues that had occurred due to the previous owners; however, the present owner was trying to rectify some of those issues and be a good neighbor. He stated that Organic Roots had several security measures in place in an effort to minimize the concern of crime or increased crime, which included after hours security by a security company, security cameras, double locked doors, and a safe for the medical marijuana. Mr. Oliver submitted 56 letters from patients asking for the center to remain open. He noted that the patients would suffer and be inconvenienced if no medical marijuana centers were allowed in Loveland. He stated that they were currently serving 260-265 active patients, and mentioned that the area had changed to land that was more commercial. He stated that they had communicated with the two occupied residents, who did not have objections to the center. He acknowledged that it was close to the city limits of Loveland and they were aware that they would have to abide by the City rules if annexed. He spoke to the crime concern and showed statistics that dispensaries did not lead to increased crime.
Karen Richardson, owned Units B5-6 and owned two units in Unit C. She stated that she had been there for 10 years. She had a concern with safety and noted that one of the residents had young children. She stated that there was also increased traffic, which would increase when all of the other dispensaries had to close in Loveland. She stated that there was limited parking in the parking lot. She felt that the centers brought more crime, decreased property values, and mad it more challenging to obtain renters. She acknowledged that since the present owner had taken over things had gotten better. She stated that the response time for the sheriff was longer and noted that there was no way of the operators of the dispensary to monitor “street” selling. She felt that the center affected many of the other tenants.
George Richardson, owned Unit C3, noted that the rear of the buildings had garage doors which did not provide great security.
David Edwards, Waterford, LLC, owned the units for the proposed business. He mentioned that many comments stated “potential” and/or “could” and there was no concrete evidence. He admitted that there were issues with the last owners but there had been no complaints since the current owner took over. The current owner got along with the other tenants and was willing to work with them. He also noted that he had sold the unit right next to the proposed center and stated that there had never been issues with parking in the lot. He stated that the operators had been successful in having a good demeanor, and suggested allowing the center to continue and be monitored.
Rebecca Grove, owned Unit B1, stated that she was concerned about safety.
Mr. Oliver stated that they were trying to work with Mrs. Richardson and address her concerns. He stated that the whole unit had locks, double locked doors, and a security system.
Commissioner Weitkunat stated that she did not support the appeal.
Commissioner Wallace agreed.
Commissioner Miller felt that the arguments were compelling, as the surrounding residential land owners did not oppose the center. He felt that it was important to allow the center especially since Loveland was putting a moratorium in place in March.
Commissioner Dougherty had an issue with the residences in the area as the Land Use Code stipulated distance requirements. He was torn as medical marijuana centers would cease in Loveland.
Commissioner Hess acknowledged the Land Use Code requirements regarding buffers. She also acknowledged that the city was shutting down centers, and the proposed center would be one of the only ones left. She also liked that the owners had received approval from the neighbors and were also trying to be good neighbors to the other tenants.
Commissioner Cox stated that the request was not a temporary situation and the commission did not know if the current owner would sell the business at any time. She stated that there were historical issues and testimony had been heard from several other business owners. She stated that the proposal did not meet the review criteria. The City of Loveland did vote to have a moratorium and there should be a respect for the laws of the city. She pointed out that there were legal centers in Berthoud where patients could receive their medication. It was a permanent request that went with the land, and it was not an appropriate location for the proposed activity.
Chairman Hart stated that the approval ran with the land and ownerships changed. It was not in compliance with the Land Use Code criterion, and the location was also within the Loveland Growth Management Area and should not go against the recommendation of that GMA. It was an unexceptional location.
Commissioner Cox moved that the Planning Commission adopt the following Resolution:
BE IT RESOLVED that the Planning Commission recommend to the Board of County Commissioners that the Nature’s Medicine Special Review, file #10-Z1806, for the property described on “Exhibit A” to the minutes, be denied.
Commissioner Wallace seconded the Motion.
Commissioners’ Dougherty, Hess, and Miller voted against the Motion.
Commissioners' Cox, Wallace, Weitkunat and Chairman Hart voted in favor of the Motion.
MOTION PASSED: 4-3
REPORT FROM STAFF: Mr. Lafferty reminded the Commission of their upcoming meetings.
ADJOURNMENT: There being no further business, the hearing adjourned at 7:53 p.m.
These minutes constitute the Resolution of the Larimer County Planning Commission for the recommendations contained herein which are hereby certified to the Larimer County Board of Commissioners.
Gerald Hart, Chairman Jana Hess, Secretary
UNITS 5 & 6, BLDG A, SIERRA PLAZA SOUTH CONDOS, CIC (97042142)