Chair Margie Valdez convened the meeting of the INC Zoning and Planning Committee and led an internal discussion of committee members about several important ongoing topics:
There is a well balanced citizen advisory group working to recommend regulations and procedures to the Department of Excise and Licenses to implement Initiative 300, which Denver voters passed in November 2016, regarding social consumption of marijuana. Margie, who is a member of the advisory group, mentioned the following:
- Sign regulations will be dealt with by the zoning code.
- One decision for the advisory group and the Department to make is whether needs and desires hearings will be required before a permit will be approved. Almost all of the ZAP committee members said that such hearings should be required, especially if an applicant and the registered neighborhood organization(s) (RNO) have not agreed to a Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA). Some indicated that such hearings would allow neighbors to present any factual errors in an application.
- The ZAP committee members strongly agreed that important conditions on all facilities should be placed in the city’s regulations, instead of having to be individually negotiated in GNAs with applicants.
- Margie Valdez will develop a proposed template for a GNA that all RNOs can use, which she will share with the ZAP committee for discussion.
- The Liquor Enforcement Division of the State Revenue Department adopted a regulation last November, shortly after Initiative 300 was passed, to prohibit marijuana products from being consumed in any establishment with a liquor license. Several marijuana industry representatives have sued the state to have that regulation overturned.
- Much will need to be decided by the courts, including whether social marijuana consumption facilities in Denver would conform to the requirement of Constitutional Amendment 64 that marijuana cannot be consumed openly and publically.
- Most members of the ZAP committee and the neighborhood representatives on the advisory group oppose facilities where dual-consumption of marijuana and liquor would be allowed, for safety reasons.
- The advisory group and the Department may consider placing caps to prevent over-saturation of facilities in neighborhoods; however, first the city zoning maps will need to be studied to see where such facilities are allowed by zoning.
- Three bills in the legislature will be considered which would allow social consumption facilities for marijuana.
- Several committee members were concerned about health hazards of marijuana smoke.
- Some committee members were concerned about whether facilities, such as former churches, in low-density neighborhoods should be allowed to have permits.
- Initiative 300 did not mention any liability for facility operators if any injuries or damages result from over-consumption of marijuana at facilities.
- If different RNOs and/or Business Improvement Districts overlap in a location proposed for a new facility, they should try to work together regarding an application and should be willing to discuss an application with the applicant together. Note that an application cannot be filed unless it has been approved by at least one RNO or BID.
- It is a very important responsibility for RNOs to deal with these applications seriously.
City Council will soon consider whether to extend the allowable closing times for retail marijuana facilities (currently 7pm). ZAP committee members voted as follows:
- Closing hours should remain at 7pm – 1 vote
- Closing hours should be extended to 10pm – 22 votes
- Closing hours should be extended to midnight – 2 votes
Tom Anthony of the Elyria neighborhood informed the committee of his efforts to change the zoning code to allow up to 4 (instead of the current 2) unrelated residents to live in a home. He believes that such an amendment would make more affordable housing available, including for artists and seniors.
Michael Henry of Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods informed committee members that RNOs are receiving notices about many proposed new Verizon cellular communications pole/towers and that they should review them carefully.
There will probably be a 2-month extension of the moratorium on the exemption in the zoning code which allows new developments on small lots (6250 square feet or less) in commercial mixed-use zones to provide no parking spaces.
Joel Noble mentioned that the INC Transportation Committee will hear a presentation about transportation demand management tools at its next meeting on March 9.