MOFFAT— The town of Moffat has recently approved 14 licensed marijuana businesses for the sale of retail marijuana and marijuana-infused products and is in the process of embarking on subdividing property annexed to the town earlier this year.
The (disputed) annexation occurred in May, with some residents questioning its legality. (See companion subdivision article on page 5A.)
According to an article by Lisa Cyriacks published in the Crestone Eagle last month, access to commercial water advertised on the Area420 website (www.coloradoarea420.com) is one of the main attractions for buyers. A water source procured by Potch, LLC is located just north of the annexed parcel.
Currently water is supplied through an SWSP (substitute water supply plan), providing 44 acre-feet of fully consumptive, year-round water for commercial use (not seasonal irrigation use). The supply plan is open to review and modification by the Division of Water Resources.
“In addition, grow owners are incorporating residential plans into their development proposals,” Cyriacks quotes Whitney Justice, who recently became the registered agent for Potch LLC. “When owners live on site, security and sustainability improve.” During the review of marijuana regulations last year, a provision was struck from the regulations requiring those who purchase grow property to construct permanent residents onsite.
Also available, the website says, is 400-amp electrical service. Local authorities are described on the site as “cannabis-friendly,” with low local renewal fees and excise taxes listed as an additional attraction. In the November 2018 General Election, residents of Moffat passed a five percent excise tax, to be levied incrementally over the next few years.
In September the town of Moffat approved 14 business licenses for retail marijuana cultivations and marijuana-infused products. Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) has approved only two of the licenses, held by Whitney Justice. She is reportedly in the process of applying to MED for approval and background checks on the rest of the licenses.
Justice, speaking on behalf of Area420, told Cyriacks: “We do not permit black or gray market operations, which are not governed by the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division. The MED imposes its own set of building standards and requirements which far exceed the UBC or anything any local authority has ever implemented… Area420 businesses will be held to the highest building standards in the county because the construction is dictated and governed by the MED.”
There is nothing on the MED website or included in its statutory provisions that addresses building codes or standards. The state leaves these standards to its 64 counties and Colorado municipalities. The town of Moffat has no building codes of its own and the county claims that the town of Moffat oversees annexation development, not the county.
Justice commented further that Area420 will observe the county’s dark skies ordinance and all local and state laws as well as the MED rules and regulations.
Resident objections disregarded
Articles published both in the Crestone Eagle and Center Post-Dispatch have reported that Moffat residents feel the entire annexation/subdivision of the property has not been transparent. Recently released agendas show public hearings required by law for the annexation were held at various meetings last year, but agendas were not readily available until only recently and only one public hearing on the annexation was listed on the available agendas.
A petition signed by Moffat residents opposing the annexation was not admitted into evidence or discussed at the hearing and a copy of the petition submitted to the town was not produced. A property owner who requested a copy of the petition via the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) says the copy was never provided by the town.
Many objections by residents to the establishment of the grows in rural residential and agricultural areas also have been registered with Saguache County administration, the Saguache count Planning Commission and the town of Moffat.
Moffat annexation background
Saguache County Commissioners approved the annexation of 109 acres owned and developed by Whitney Justice/Potch LLC at their April 17 meeting, with County Attorney Ben Gibbons commenting they should approve it because Moffat would go ahead with the annexation anyway. The town of Moffat began its annexation plans in March of last year, voting to pass the annexation resolution in May. The town reports only 99 acres were annexed.
The annexation passage and preliminary planning stages are in question because two Moffat board members later resigned for violating state regulations prohibiting those with marijuana licenses of any kind to sit on the board. Other board members’ affiliations also were questioned.
Mayor Patricia Reigel and other Moffat board members believe the town can offer growers the acreage free and clear of the excise tax paid by other retail grows in the county by annexing unincorporated acreage into the town. This, however, appears to contradict the ballot language for the excise tax, passed in 2016.
Recently a Salida attorney wrote a letter to the town of Moffat and Saguache County claiming the Moffat annexation of Potch, LLC/Area 420 fails to meet statutory and constitutional requirements, and in order to avoid legal challenges Saguache County and the Town of Moffat should correct the situation. Neither the town nor the county has responded to the letter.