SAGUACHE — The Saguache County Planning Commission (SCPC) met last Thursday to consider a marijuana grow off County Road T, a country road where many marijuana cultivation businesses, approved by county commissioners, have set up shop in the past year.
For the first time, the SCPC denied the grow after hearing from several surrounding property owners regarding the hardships this would cause them should it be granted a conditional use permit (CUP). All the other CUP applications which have come before the commission for review have been approved pending final approval by commissioners. Commissioners appear to have approved all of them with the exception of one, which is pending.
The proposed cultivation site, named “A Growing Concern” is owned by Andreas Pleschutnig.
Those attending the meeting agreed that several factors contributed to the SCPC denial, but the main issue seemed to be that the grow is within 200 feet of a bus stop. While property owners felt this was unacceptable, others commented that the law does not forbid the grows to be a certain number of feet away from bus stops, only retail shops, which must be 1,000 feet away.
Other factors included a fence that did not enclose the grow area and water that had not been disconnected from a mobile home. The current grower, who is only leasing the property from Pleschutnig, who lives in Aurora, was initially going to put a hoop greenhouse up and enclose the grow. He has since changed his mind and now wants to grow plants out in the open.
The property is only a five-acre tract and those in the area objected that if the grower later received permission to increase the grow the plants would be too close to their properties. This also raised a potential odor issue. The current owner also has a medical marijuana license and there was discussion over how the two businesses would work together.
Neighbors also were upset about the grower’s large, aggressive dogs, who they claim have chased neighbors and their animals.
According to attendees, eight or nine neighbors from the area appeared at the meeting to object to the grow and four or five protest letters were submitted to the SCPC. The property owners were allowed to speak on their own behalf, although attempts were made by the SCPC chair to curb discussions that escalated out of control.
At first it appeared the SCPC would pass the CUP with conditions, but then they denied the grow permission to operate. One attendee commented s/he believed the commissioners would still approve the grow eventually after attaching several of the conditions considered by the SCPC.
Another attendee related an incident with a different grow that could have ended in disaster. One of the growers ran an electrical cable the size of a man’s arm from his site to a pole on the road and did not inform residents in the area. One resident called SLVREC and reported the cable. SLVREC said it was run illegally and disconnected it. The technicians told the resident who called it in they were lucky the cable didn’t catch fire and hurt someone.
When notified of the exposed electric cable, the attendee continued, county land use said there wasn’t a problem.
Attendees generally agreed the growers have been given “carte blanche” in the county and people should have done something a long time ago. Some say they plan to leave the area if something is not done soon.
“A lot of people are just afraid,” one woman confided. “There is a fear factor involved in speaking out.” Others agreed there is a very real fear that there could be retribution from grow owners for frustrating their plans.
County commissioners are scheduled to reconsider the Barkl grow, in