Cultivation zoning approved

John Scarffe, Gilpin County.  Actions surrounding marijuana cultivation, historic preservation and Gilpin County Courthouse renovations continued during a regular meeting of the Gilpin County Board of County Commissioners at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 at the courthouse. All three matters were initiated at previous meetings.


On August 1, the Board approved a tax resolution referring a ballot question to the voters about whether the County can impose an excise tax on the first sale or transfer of unprocessed retail marijuana by cultivation facilities in unincorporated Gilpin County. The resolution followed the Board passing an ordinance creating a licensing authority and procedure for three marijuana cultivation facilities at the July 11 meeting.


On August 15, County Planner Daniel Horn introduced a resolution for amendments to County zoning codes regulating marijuana-related activities and grows for recreational purposes. Horn said that state registered medical marijuana patient and caregiver grows and recreational marijuana personal use grows will be permitted in all zones with a grow-specific certificate of occupancy.


State licensed retail marijuana cultivation will be permitted in zones Commercial 4 and 5 with special use review and a grow-specific certificate of occupancy. Medical marijuana centers, optional premises cultivation, retail marijuana stores, medical marijuana infused and retail products manufacturing as well as medical marijuana testing are prohibited, according to the zoning regulation.


Restrictions in addition to those set by State statute and Gilpin County Ordinance 17-01 state that licensed marijuana cultivation facilities will be prohibited from operating as a residential-based business. Licensed caregivers in RR and RS zoned properties must operate as a residential-based business, Horn said.


Recreational personal use grows cannot have any exterior indication including physical appearance, noise and odor, a light for the grow cannot emit from within and the structure must have proper electrical capacity to withstand the extra power usage. The owner must reside and maintain primary residence onsite.


Licensed marijuana cultivation facilities can have no signage, symbols or other identifying marks except address numbers. Horn said this is exclusively for what’s going to happen in the future and not existing regulations.


Board Chair Gail Watson said fees are not listed, and the zoning regulation doesn’t say the County requires a permit. Commissioner Ron Engels said the fee schedule usually is listed separately so it can be changed.


Watson said: “I’m seeing this bigger picture of how this is going to play out. It’s not all- inclusive. There are other pieces that will branch out. We’re going to start getting phone calls. How much will it cost caregivers?”


Horn said that this is more for people coming to us in the future. Engels said he knows the County is not going to be proactive in finding everyone who has a grow, but he hopes we will issue notices that if you have a grow you need to get a permit.


Watson said: “We have to have this developed. We have to have an understanding of what that means when people call and ask what fee and how long this is going to take. Are we ready to roll this out?


Commissioner Linda Isenhart said: “I didn’t have any reservations. It becomes effective January 1. Twelve plants per home is the max. I think it’s a good idea to safeguard the residents and have some ventilation.


Horn said, “Those are questions that I would answer when someone comes to me.”


Watson said, “I don’t think we know how many residents grow in their homes,” and Engles replied that’s one of the reasons we put this in place so we would know what’s going on.


“I’m okay with moving this forward and ramping up the campaign. We have plenty of time,” Engels said. The Board approved the zoning codes resolution.


Watson introduced historic preservation issues. The Red Tail cabins are being assessed and they will have results at the end of next week. Owners of the Red Tail cabins, located off Robinson Hill Road, want to move or demolish the cabins.


The County is interested in preserving the cabins and authorized an appraisal on the Red Tail Cabins at its July 19 meeting.


Regarding work near the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel, they are fast tracking an assessment of the cabins, including a lead paint and asbestos test. The cabins may not withstand the abatement, Watson said. The County has a grant from United Power of $3,000 to $5,000 to stabilize the work camp at the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel.


Two Russell Gulch residents asked for funding for the Russell Gulch Cemetery Project, Watson said. She is concerned about the amount of money the County is spending to put wood floors in the Courthouse, and it’s looking like quite a bit of effort on behalf of the Historic Preservation Commission.


“We have a lot of expenses coming our way. Is it appropriate to reconsider wood floors instead of carpet and put the additional funding to preservation?”


Engels said that painting the Courthouse is more expensive than the floors. “Let’s do the right thing and not do something else. Carpeting is not the long-term solution.”


Isenhart said she would like to know the cost of these three preservation projects. “Looking at the audit, I think we could handle the whole thing. Having a great Courthouse is more important than some of these other smaller projects.”


Watson said she had absolutely no idea of the costs. Engels said that UP would be willing to deed the cabins to the County. Watson said they would be responsible for the abatement, but the cabins may not withstand it.


Engels said that extrinsically those cabins have no value. The cost to rehabilitate would be more than the value of the cabins. “Is there any way we can help guide that assessment?”


Watson asked if they can get that in the works so they can’t raise them. Engels said that having the designation would give them protection and some tax credit.


Isenhart asked if it would be possible to have work crews go up and clean up all the trash around the cabins and put up a fence. Watson said that United Power agreed to do a maximum of $3,000 to secure them and the County will have to coordinate with them.


Watson also wants to paint over the graffiti. Someone has been tagging the boulders by the creek. If the County can get the permission of the U.S. Forest Service, maybe they can be responsible.


“The assessment for the Red Tail cabins — I hope it justifies the cost of $50,000 for the cabins and property. My guess is it’s a $1,000 project,” Watson said.


The East Portal has four cabins, so let’s say $500,000. For Red Tail, we may have time to get acquisition funding, Watson said “If we were able to find half a million dollars for historic preservation in 2018 we could get a lot done.”


Engels said there will be ongoing maintenance costs. They need to be thoughtful of incorporating acquisition into a long-term maintenance plan, and they need something to market, like “Come See Historic Gilpin County.” “We need to make sure all of those things are incorporated into who we want to be.”


Watson agreed and said it would be a great opportunity for kids to have Red Tail be part of parks and recreation to have an experiential, historic look at how people lived in that manner. They could rent one cabin to the Colorado Mountain Club and turn one into a hostel.


Isenhart said: “I don’t want to commit until we know. I think we can find some big grants. We have more equipment needs and salaries. “If we do the research, maybe for a public/private partnership.


“I like the idea of historic tours. There are some real possibilities. I just don’t want anyone to get hurt or start a fire,” Isenhart said.


Watson returned to the courthouse discussion and said that enough of the original wood is in place here and in their offices. Carpet is a much less expensive alternative and would be warmer. “Preserving more history is greater good than raising one building to a higher standard,” Watson said.


County Public Works and Facilities Director Bill Paulman and Bill Harrington with Alpha Services, LLC, presented a professional services contract for Alpha Services, LLC, for the Gilpin County Courthouse flooring and painting project.


Paulman said they have come back and forth numerous times and think they have everything in place. Paulman and Harrington reviewed cost estimates for maintenance and updates to the courthouse on both June 13 and June 27.


The insurance cost they will put in place for $1,039. Alpha’s services will cost $21,294. Watson said that now they have to go through the bidding process, and Paulman said they can do it in a couple of weeks.


Harrington said they would see what they get back from the advertisements. He would like to have all of the painters in at one time and all of the floor guys at one time. Eleven weeks is the length of the project once the contract is signed. Harrington said, “If it goes longer than 11 weeks, it’s on me.”


The Board approved the contract.



(Originally published in the August 24, 2017 print version of The Mountain-Ear.)