After Snowmass Village’s town council let a moratorium on the sale of marijuana expire this spring, nearly six years after the practice became legal within the state, the town’s first retail marijuana shop may open by next winter.
In March, council members passed an ordinance that allows retail sales, per the guidelines of a local marijuana licensing authority — a new regulatory body made up of the same five members as the council proper.
The officials met as the licensing authority for the first time this month to hammer out the process for obtaining a pot shop business license. They meet again on May 21 and are expected to finalize the application requirements at that time. One provision of the application requires an approved retail marijuana store license from the state, which can take months. Another provision in meeting both state and local license rules is that the applicant have a secured lease for the business premises.
Restrictive zoning requirements limit the potential sites for a pot shop within the town limits, and there is currently only one landlord considering leasing space for that use. It would likely, then, be near the end of the summer that Snowmass Village will see its first and only applicant.
The Romero Group owns the lion’s share of the Snowmass Mall. President and CEO Dwayne Romero confirmed this week that a request-for-proposals process has just ended, and they will be considering a new retail marijuana shop on the mall’s second floor. The space, previously occupied by a business called the Hideaway, conforms to second-story requirements and falls outside of the buffer required from the ski slope and childhood centers.
“We developed a set of criteria and standards by which we would measure those proposals,” Romero said. “Not surprisingly, the criteria are heavily weighted toward community values and being good community stewards.”
To obtain a license, store owners are required to submit a personal history of themselves and employees, and all must undergo a criminal background check. The Snowmass Village Police Department will oversee fingerprinting of applicants and their staff, who will provide the state with a five-year criminal history of each applicant. The recording of one’s individual history mirrors the format used in Telluride. It also asks if the applicant is a practicing physician or a law enforcement officer.
Romero said they are looking for a business that can demonstrate strong community ties to Snowmass Village. The town requires that the business to prepare a community engagement plan and appoint a community liaison who will be the contact person with local police.
“We are excited about finding some entity that is represented by faces that we know and recognize, and [that] their values are consistent with the values of Snowmass Village,” he said, adding that the goal is to be “respectful of the brand that Snowmass Village and the resort carry.”
This fall, prior to the sale of marijuana being legalized, Snowmass Village voters passed an additional 5 percent local sales tax on retail marijuana, which is the maximum rate allowed. At the time, town officials said they anticipated tax revenue would be between $200,000 and $600,000 annually.
That’s money the town has gone without for the past six years, while residents and visitors have had to go to other towns to purchase pot products.
Andrew Wickes is the manager of operations at Sundance Liquor and Gifts in the Snowmass Center. He said over the years local concierges, hotel shuttle drivers and other business owners have watched as visitors made their way to Aspen to purchase recreational marijuana.
“Just managing a liquor store, we got the brunt of a lot of the questions about where you could purchase, so we really saw how many people we were sending to Aspen,” Wickes said.
He said once visitors are in Aspen, they are more likely to stay and spend there.
“They end up having dinner and shopping for groceries and shopping for wine,” Wickes said. “That just seemed like an unnecessary leak in the system.”
Beyond the mall, there are two potential commercial sites where zoning would allow for retail marijuana. Owners of the Snowmass Center are planning a redevelopment within the next couple of years, and other area landlords in Base Village, near the Westin, and the shops at Woodbridge have not expressed interest or don’t have conforming retail space.
Once the application materials are approved by the licensing authority, complete packets will be accepted at the clerk’s office, and review meetings will be planned when necessary. All reviews of licenses are public hearings for which advance notice must be provided. There is a $1,000 fee for the business license and a $750 annual renewal fee.