At the end of an almost eight-hour City Council meeting Tuesday, Colorado Springs' medical marijuana industry won a large victory, seeing looser zoning regulations than recommended by the city Planning Commission enacted. By an 8-0 vote, with Councilor Randy Purvis absent, Council rolled back recommended 1,000-foot barriers to 400 feet, removed public and private preschools as well as college campuses from applicable facilities, and removed the Planning Commission's recommendation that only 20 percent of a facility be allowed to use as grow space.
And while the tone of the audience, most who had been sitting since the meeting's beginning at 1 p.m., was jubilant, Council struck a slightly harsher one when it came to the Planning Commission not allowing public comment when it considered its final draft.
"I have an issue with that," said Councilor, and future county commissioner, Darryl Glenn to heavy applause from the pro-MMJ crowd. "The question was asked of our city attorney whether or not the rules where violated. And our city attorney reassured us that they were consistent with the rules, but in my opinion it violated the spirit of the rules, and that’s why I think it’s important for us to revisit that.
"Had they violated the rules, I would be here today asking for their resignation. I’m just very serious about that," Glenn said. "We’ve gone too far in this community to build responsible public dialogue to be able to deal with issues, and to cut off public comment is something that’s unacceptable."
No members of the Planning Commission were in attendance at the City Council meeting, a point that Glenn also noted. Glenn said he was influenced by the county-wide vote in the November election against Question 1A, which would have banned MMJ centers in unincorporated El Paso County. Glenn said he interpreted that vote as being supportive of MMJ's continued existence throughout the county.
Councilor Sean Paige took some pleasure in zoning regulations finally being enacted, after he and Councilor Tom Gallagher were tapped to create a medical marijuana task force in late 2009.
"We’re a 'conservative city' but I’m just proud of the city, that instead of just shutting the door, we are dealing with it," Paige said. "And we’re dealing with it in a rational way that’s respectful of people’s rights, and also respectful of other people in the community who are concerned."
In the end, Councilor Jan Martin spoke for the room when she said the city had "really beat this one to death."
"But I think when all is said and done, what we have done here tonight is to create a very fair and reasonable business environment for all of you to succeed," she added. "But the onus is really going to be on you now. We will be watching, the community will be watching.
"It is my hope that you all are very successful."