City Council Study Session 12 April 2016 – Retail MJ, Drones and Neighborhood Plans

City Council Study Session                  12 April 2016                 Citizen Minutes

Discussion on Lifting the Ban on Retail Marijuana Sales

There are four medical marijuana (MJ) shops in Littleton right now. You have to be 21 to enter a retail marijuana shop but only 18 to enter a medical marijuana shop. Bruce Beckman told the council they had five options. They can direct staff to:

  1. Bring forward an ordinance similar to one passed in 2014 banning the sale of retail MJ,
  2. Provide alternatives to allow retail sale of MJ,
  3. Refer a non-binding advisory question to the electors whether to allow retail sales of MJ in Littleton (Englewood did this and the council ignored the results),
  4. Prepare a ballot question concerning the retail sales of MJ, or
  5. Take no further action at this time.

Police Chief Doug Stephens said it is here whether or not we sell it in Littleton and that he cannot say that there’s cause for concern on MJ incidents. He did not anticipate a negative impact on the police if retail sales were allowed in Littleton.

MJ is an export business now in Colorado. An illegal grow in Littleton could be a problem but fortunately that has not happened in Littleton. There is a belief that MJ is the drug of choice for kids and, yes, it is in the schools and he did not think selling retail MJ would change that. The challenge they have is driving under the influence of MJ. They use a lot of the same observations that they do with alcohol related stops but the technology is not there just yet (like a breathalyzer test for alcohol) but that is the same challenge we have for all narcotics.

Mike Bratten, Dep City Manager, reported that there would be a late bill introduced at the state legislature but he has no idea what it will be.

Currently two of the four MJ shops are located in areas that they should not be in. If they decide to move to retail sales they will have to relocate. Question was asked if there could be two doors into a MJ shop – one for the 18 year olds and the other for the 21 and older group. Kristin Scheldorn said that was possibility.

Doug Clark said the four shops we have now are working well. It was noted that Englewood still has a ban in place for retail MJ. (Englewood is currently discussing lifting their ban too.) Phil Cernanec asked about manufacturing and testing of MJ in Littleton. Beckman said that was out of the scope of the discussion right now.

Debbie Brinkman said she is ready to put the question on the ballot in spite of her personal beliefs. She noted that a council decision could be changed at anytime. Do we want retail sales in Littleton or do we tell the group that there’s a process to the question on the ballot. If they do the risk for us is that they will write the ballot question. Other option is to ask the voters to decide. Did not like going to the voters to ask – we were elected to represent. She has heard from a number of constituents that they do not want retail MJ in Littleton.

Mike Bratten asked for clarification – do you want to have a special election or a coordinated general election. Beckman asked if she wanted a binding vote or not. Brinkman said she wanted a binding vote and did not want a special election.

Beckman said what if they whatever was put in place could not be modified. If council acted on their own, through an ordinance, it could be changed anytime.

Clark said a Constitutional Amendment passed in the state and in Littleton by over a majority. Littleton has not held a specific election on retail MJ sales and yet we allowed medical sales here.

Jerry Valdes said his district voted in favor of retail sales and he gets a lot of calls on the subject that go 50/50. He did not want a single shop to sell both medical and retail.

Bill Hopping said he has been agonizing over this. He wondered if people in Littleton understood how MJ impacted the brain of a child. He is concerned with the edibles.

Peggy Cole said if residents were going to buy MJ she would prefer them to buy it in Littleton (sales tax revenue).

Cernanec said he agreed with Brinkman and Hopping but he did not want the regulations included in the ballot question.

Beckman thought they should do this by ordinance. Mike Bratten said they could pose the question on the Littleton Web Site.


Drones and Unmanned Aircraft

From the council communication: “The Office of the General Counsel (OGC) issued a fact sheet in December 2105 on state and local regulation of UAS. (unmanned aircraft systems) Local laws within the city’s police powers, including zoning, privacy, and trespass, generally art not subject to federal regulations. However, the OGC has ten the position that federal registration is the exclusive means of registering UAS and that no state or local government may exempt from federal registration requirements, or impost additional registration requirements, without first obtaining FAA approval. Consultation with the FAA is recommended prior to adopting restrictions on flight altitude, flight paths, operational bans, or regulation of navigable air space (e.g., a city ordinance banning operation within city limits or a city airspace, or within certain distances of landmarks.)”

Beckman summed it up – just not comfortable proceeding with this now.


Neighborhood Plans Prioritization

The Citywide Complan contains a page that signals the importance of looking at and updating the neighborhood plans. At the last council meeting council indicated they would like to revise that chart. A couple of areas in Littleton do not have plans. Valdes wanted to see Ketring receive a higher priority with the possibility of development over there. He said Santa Fe area is already getting attention. He is concerned about the Schomps’ property – what will happen there when Schomps’ leaves. (Property is on the market.) Brinkman kept talking over Valdes and I don’t know what her objection was to his comments. He finally told her that he was speaking.

Clark suggested council identified three areas with the most potential for change, Santa Fe and Mineral, Columbine Square and Littleton Blvd and Broadway. These areas are of the most concern to citizens. The idea is to look at these areas before redevelopment occurs – find out what is suitable for the areas.

Cole asked for a time frame be used in context with the different areas instead of rated high or low priority.

Cernanec clarified for himself – when an area is looked at it is not just looed at in context of the commercial properties but includes “tension areas”……areas where the commercial meets with the residential.

Beckman said they wanted to set the neighborhood plans aside to focus on the corridor plans. Are corridors still at the top of our list?

Hopping said with some exceptions – the Goddard neighborhood and Columbine Square – something needs to happen and that should receive a higher priority.

Dennis Swain, planner, said they would like to look at the whole Belleview corridor and they don’t have any direction at this time.

Brinkman said planning board could talk about the opportunities and the difficult challenges. Knowing about them as they pop up would be helpful.

Clark thought they needed to determine the first, second and third areas and get planning board started. But they have to meet. His recommendation would be Columbine Square, Ensor and the Schomps’ property. If another car dealership comes in then the Schomps’ property won’t need a change but they need to be ready if something different is proposed. Beckman agreed that they did not want to get caught flatfooted if a developer asks what the city wants to do on a particular piece of property.

Hopping wanted a discussion to occur with each area about the character of the area, what the juxtaposition of keeping things as is, and how do we want the area to look and be in character – something citizen driven.

Clark mentioned the north side of Belleview – the parking lot by Colorado Fabrics – he hears complaints about the poor condition of the lot – it looks terrible.

Beckman said planning board and council should to come together sooner than later. He asked Jocelyn Mills, Community Development Director, where we were with the zoning code update. She said the land use table is being reviewed and is almost done. The second part of the process is to reformat the existing code which should be done this summer or in the fall. Hopping asked if the council would need to approve the update and Mills said no. Hopping said the content is being reorganized and he didn’t think it would require council’s approval. Clark corrected Hopping – if it is an ordinance change it comes to council for approval. Mills said there would be some content changes. She provided an example. At the last planning board meeting (night before this meeting) the parking dimensions were proposed. That will come to the council for approval.

South view Fire Update

Mike Bratten provided an update to the council on the Southview fire. 136 units were evacuated and there are still 14 residents in the shelter. Host homes have been offered but they are unable to allow the residents to go to a host home for liability reasons. They need short term housing. Three floors will not be habitable for a long time. Beckman said he was disappointed that the council wasn’t notified on a timely basis. He talked with the Red Cross to thank them. The Red Cross said the community had been amazing in the way they came together to assist.

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