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New marijuana store eyes abandoned storefront

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All trustees were present at their regular meeting on July 12 with the exception of Mayor Ben Bohmfalk. It was Mayor Pro Tem Erica Sparhawk’s first meeting in that role, leading the process in the mayor’s absence.

Beyond the procedural minutia of municipal government — approving commission minutes — there were several items that involved deliberation, though all votes were unanimous.

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The first involved a conditional retail marijuana license for a new store, part of a chain called LOVA that was founded by Aspen residents Matthew Shifrin and Amanda Fox who were born and raised in Woody Creek. Town Clerk Cathy Derby said the application was unusual in that the storefront does not yet exist.

Shifrin, Fox and their local agent, Kenneth McMechen, are already far along with the Planning and Zoning Commission with an application to scrape the neglected storefront at 1337 106 County Road, on the west side of the 7-Eleven, and replace it with a new building fabricated off-site using recycled containers.

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Shifrin categorized their stores as providing an “elevated” retail experience, as opposed to “people wearing hoodies and blasting rap music.” They began with four stores in Denver, now have 10 in Colorado and are expanding into Illinois.

The conditional license was granted after a few questions regarding parking (located on the north side of the building, not off Main Street), employment (the applicant is aware of labor shortages) and clarification that once the building is approved it can be installed and operational in just three months. Carbondale does not have a cap on retail marijuana stores. “We look forward to being part of the business community in Carbondale and won’t let you down,” said Shifrin.

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1337 106 County Road belongs to Crystal River Marketplace LLC. Courtesy graphic

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Following up on a request made at their June 28 meeting, trustees briefly revisited the prospect of sponsoring the global Mountain Partnership meeting in Aspen this September. At no cost and with nothing to lose, the town joined the partnership and plans to have a presence at the meeting. When it came to funding, with sponsorship levels ranging from $3,000 to $50,000, trustees declined that opportunity with a unanimous vote.

Two requests came by way of Carbondale Arts. The first was to waive permit fees for the Youth Art Park north of Town Hall. As explained by Town Manager Lauren Gister, the permits were not required but requested given the nature of playground equipment in the interest of public safety. Trustees voted to waive what equated to just over $2,100 in town staff time.

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Also in the interest of public safety, trustees agreed to share costs for hiring private security to supplement the town’s police presence at Mountain Fair. As explained by a memo written by Chief Kirk Wilson, staffing shortages throughout the Valley have made it unlikely that there will be sufficient police to meet the industry standard of one officer per 250 people at a public event. Mountain Fair estimates upwards of 5,000 attendees at any given moment. Especially in light of recent events, trustees saw no problem with sharing the cost of hiring additional security at Mountain Fair in 2022 for up to $2,500.

The final item on the agenda pertained to reserving a spot on the November ballot with the county clerk for one or two tax questions. The first being entertained is a new short term rental tax that could be dedicated toward the town’s housing fund — used to purchase or improve town-owned housing, or as match money toward grants. The second question involves increasing the 2% lodging tax currently delegated wholly to funding the Tourism Council (a subsidiary of the Chamber of Commerce).

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“All kinds of towns are doing it in all kinds of ways,” said Gister, outlining in the meeting’s packet short term rental taxes ranging from 2.5 % (Telluride) to 15% (Ouray). Gister also made clear that a 1% lodging tax increase in Carbondale could raise up to $75,000 per year, as compared to $1 million in Aspen and $460,000 in Glenwood Springs. “Carbondale is a very different animal,” she said.

Representatives of the Comfort Inn and Marble Distilling joined the public comment portion to express dismay at not being included earlier in the discussion of increasing the lodging tax.

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“We can certainly delay,” said Sparhawk, clarifying that the town raised the discussion in response to concerns from residents. “We knew having a meeting would get you here, that’s part of the public process.”

Clarifying that the short term rentals tax and lodging taxes will be deliberated separately, trustees requested town staff move ahead with reserving a place for both on the November ballot, accepting that the lodging tax increase may be tabled.

The topic will be revisited at the trustees’ work session on July 19.

Tags: #Carbondale Report #Erica Sparhawk #LOVA #taxes
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