Louisville is about to get its final two marijuana retail stores, at least until the council allows even more stores. The city council will decide on Tuesday September 1st if the current applications meet the need of the city, and it’s residents.
If you would like to take action, and don’t want to read the details behind it, here is the call to action.
It’s worth remembering while reading this that no one wanted more marijuana stores in Louisville, except the city council and a few people from the marijuana industry. As former Councilor Keany said at the April 17th, 2018 meeting
I have not heard a hue and cry from the public saying we don’t have enough marijuana stores in the community and we need more. When you say our citizens need something or want something in the community, I have not had anyone in the community say we need more stores in town and so we need to loosen up our regulations add cultivation facilities, we don’t need to do any of those things.Councillor Keany, City Council Meeting, April 17th, 2018
Following the vote on February 5th 2019, where the city amended the municipal code to allow more stores, larger stores, stores to be closer together. Also removing the distance requirement from pools, parks, playgrounds and pre-schools. The third and fourth store have opened, and the fifth and sixth stores are up for final approval at the September 1st, 2020 Council Meeting.
Disappointingly, the city was NOT required to notify adjacent residents of these proposed changes to the municipal code. The city did not hold a public consultation, and did not have a survey, etc. The council has no idea how many properties are impacted by this change, they simply didn’t ask. The property owners have no idea, because they were not notified. If you live near a a pre-school, park, pool or playground near to a commercial building, that building can now become a marijuana retail store and you have almost no chance of stopping it.
The only conclusion I can draw, is the council didn’t know the impact of the change they were making, or they didn’t care. What they seemed focussed on was enabling as much of Louisville as possible to be marijuana retail eligible. Here is the chart used most often during the discuss, even now I’m not sure what they adopted, and how it changes this chart. Note it focuses on eligible acres.
Having re-watched the Feb. 2019 Council meeting were the amendment was approved(link below) and two of the three 2018(1) council meetings where this amendments were discussed, the council never discussed proximity to residential properties, not once, not for one minute. (1) the third video is unavailable but the minutes are.
The only time proximity to residential homes came up, was when Councilor Lipton, at two meetings, stated he didn’t want retail marijuana in downtown Louisville because of the residencies only a block away. Then Councilor Stolzmann, now Mayor, and Councilor Maloney, who had long argued for treating marijuana like alcohol, folded at the first sign of resistance and kept the downtown ban. That’s why Pine St Plaza has a liquor store and a bar, but is ineligible for marijuana retail. So much for principles.
While the city council couldn’t find time to discuss the proximity of marijuana retail to residential homes, they found time at two meetings to discuss cultivation at the Tech Center. The council was told that the Tech Center would ban cultivation through their covenants, but the council still spent time discussing it and approving the ordinance to allow it. The tech center followed by banning it. as expected. Gesture politics at it’s finest.
BUT THE SIGN CODE?
By contrast, the same council, with the same councilors, hired a consultant, had community meetings, and ran a survey for a change to the sign code. Yes, the sign code.
That was deemed worth spending money and time on, allowing pot shops closer to pre-schools, playgrounds, pools and parks, not so much. Dan Waldrip, the last public speaker at 11:20pm on Feb 5th, 2019 reminded the council what a great job they’d done on public outreach for other big changes in the city and that they should do the same for this.
MUCKLE’S FINEST MOMENT?
After Dan Waldrip spoke, the public hearing was closed and the council went on to debate the changes for some 30-minutes. Many of the councilors seemed “punch drunk” from the long hearing and the late hour. There was lots of nervous laughter when statements were made, and at a few minutes past midnight the ordinance was approved.
Mayor Muckle moved on to the next item on the agenda, only to be stopped by Councilor Leh, immediately seconded by Councilor Stolzmann, who moved to reconsider because they were confused what the council had voted for. Around this time, Councilor Loo just got up and left. After some discussion, the City Attorney advised Councilor Leh that he could withdraw his motion which he did. Did they move on? No. Next up was Councilor Maloney, who was confused, quote “Schools? What did we do about schools?”
You can watch this example of local democracy in action, not one of Mayor Muckle and the councils finest moments.
To understand the scale and scope of these changes, and the opposition to theme, the city packet for this agenda item is here. It is some 733 pages long.
There are already four stores in town, the next will be in the former Fordyce Auto Center, next to the Union Jack Liquor store on the west side of CO42, just south of South Boulder Rd. This store was enabled by the change in distance from other stores, otherwise Igadl Dispensary in the Delo development would have prevented it.
With the reduction in distances, it is now allowed. The building has to go through a review though as it is a change of use. At the planning hearing there was no opposition to this although there was some confusion among the planning commission over the use.
1411 HECLA WAY
The sixth store is another matter, the applicant bought the lot east of Napa Auto parts that has sat empty since NAPA was built in the 1980’s. The lot itself was on the market a few years back for around $300k, went unsold, and then was purchased according to the Boulder County Property tax database for $700k in June 2019. The applicant has been going through the process to get approval adjacent to a residential neighborhood, where my home will be across the trail. In addition a block of town homes, and a dozen or more residential homes, a Balfour Community, and the King Soopers Grocery Store are all within 500ft. It’s OK for them to be that close, but not another a marijuana retail store.
The applicant is not legally obliged to work with the community, or consult with them at all. My neighbour Greg Jones and I wrote to the applicant days after the surveyors were seen on the lot, and suggested that he meet with us to discuss a win/win design. We’ve never heard from the applicant and the applicant admitted at the planning hearing that he’d received our letters, but chosen to ignore them.
The application was approved by the planning commission with a vote of 5-2, despite comments from some 80+ residents mostly because it meet the requirements of the City of Louisville Commercial Development Design Standards and Guidelines (CDDSG) although much of that was subjective, I believe it doesn’t meet the intent of the guidelines.
The applicant has paid “lip service” to “community” but has taken no action. Tuesday September 1st council meeting is the last approval before construction can begin.
So, what’s wrong with the application?
There many, may problems with the design, including 18-wheeler semi-truck access to Napa Auto-parts for delivery; the legal ownership of the lot and the approved licensees, and others, here though are the key issues.
When the applicant first submitted plans it was for two buildings on this small lot. In order to achieve that, the applicant required a waiver for the distance between buildings. When I first met with the planning dept. to review the plans, I was quite clear that I could not support a waiver. In the second submission of plans, the applicant just removed the second building rather than take the opportunity to redesign. At this point I can only suspect that the applicant is hoping this application will be approved, at which point, he will go back and apply again for the second building.
The building sits at the south west corner of the lot. It is frontage-loaded, with parking at the back. There are no other buildings in the area like this, meaning it will sit visibly at the front of the lot. While in downtown this might be a good design, in a semi-urban/residential area, it’s not great design as it pushes the parking to the rear near the homes.
Parking isn’t just a place to park cars. Parking is used for people to sit in the car with the engine running while someone else runs into the store. Parking is where you sit and make phone calls, listen to the radio and more. The number of parking spaces this application has is in excess of the parking minimum required by the city. The spaces are still as they were in the first submission, with some minor tweaking. Six of the spaces directly face the residential homes. Assuming people park front-in, that means car headlights at night and in the winter would be aimed some 20ft inside homes, mine especially. Again, the applicant doesn’t need these spaces, which just lends itself to the idea of the second building coming back at some point.
Having complained about the headlight/parking issue, the applicant’s third submission included a 5ft vinyl fence to block the light. Also, as spotted by another resident, they also fixed the drainage, which would have flowed onto the trail. The Planning Commission hearing was delayed for COVID-19 related issues, and a number of residents wrote to the planning commission to complain that the vinyl fence isn’t in keeping with anything in the neighborhood and will do nothing for noise suppression.
In the delay period, the applicant submitted again, the fourth set of plans. This is the final plan that was approved by planning, and is part of the city council hearing/approval. It includes a 6ft high, 1.5ft wide, faux-stone wall. Still nothing like this in the whole of central and northeast Louisville, but I guess could help with the noise. What makes this even worse though, is the wall will run 50ft long, adjacent to the Hecla Lake trail, and be sat on an 8ft high berm/bank. Effectively turning a trail access corridor that leads to Hecla Lake, into something that will look like a barrier along an expressway.
Notwithstanding the fact that marijuana retail is a cash business, and requires extensive security measures, and armed security, this building will be surrounded by the 6ft high wall on two sides. The wall, weirdly introduces two blind corners. Neighbors, especially women have expressed serious concern about using the trail once the wall is built. Despite council assertions about the relative safety of marijuana retail stores, in recent months Ajoya Medical Marijuana & Recreational Cannabis Dispensary, 1100 W. Dillon Road. was robbed, and there have been a series of armed robberies at Denver dispensaries. Along with the risk of having a dispensary in the neighborhood, now it will be shielded with blind corners on the trail.
WHAT TO DO?
Here is the agenda for the full meeting, and here is the packet for the NAPA Auto parts PUD amendment. The application is item D.
Please write-in to the council via firstname.lastname@example.org – emails must be submitted by Tuesday at 3pm – Many of us have already written, more structured emails for inclusion in the meeting pre-reading packet. Unlike the planning commission, the council isn’t bound to approve based on the design guides, but should listen to residents and balance the application on the needs of the community.
If you are a facebook user, please join the Louisville Citizens Action Committee, ask their members to write and attend the city meeting on Tuesday.
If you can, please attend the council meeting electronically on Tuesday. Details here. The meeting starts at 6pm, and you will need to be online not later than 6:15pm. The Hecla way plans will be heard as item D.
If you can, please attend, take a turn at speaking and let the council know that we don’t want this business, and most of all we don’t want this building, as currently designed, with it’s expressway style wall as a blight on the neighborhood for the next 20-years.
If you don’t want to speak, we need you to attend anyway. We can use at least two people who are definitely going to be attending to donate their time to me. Under the council rules of order residents can donate their time to a speaker, to speak for a maximum of 6-minutes. If you are prepared to attend in listen-only mode, and donate your time, please get in touch/email and let’s arrange it.
If we act together, I believe we can have the application sent back to be redesigned, designed in a way that makes it more integrated with the local commercial businesses and the neighborhood.