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Commissioners Table Marijuana Ordinance a Second Time

Despite changes to a proposed ordinance regulating marijuana cultivation in unincorporated areas of Fremont County, the Board of County Commissioners decided to table the ordinance a second time.   District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the Board wants to make sure they “get it right” before adopting something that may not address all the concerns.   Language that was amended after the first reading on the ordinance on March 8th drew praise from medical marijuana caregivers at the March 22nd commissioners’ meeting.

The amended ordinance dropped all references to acreage limits of five acres and 20 acres and instead focused on a limit of 99 marijuana plants for caregiver grows.  Nathan Robinson, who grows marijuana as a caregiver year round, thanked the commissioners saying the changes represented a good balance.   William DeSpain who also protested the original limitations said he appreciated the revisions.   But regarding personal use marijuana growing, DeSpain said it boils down to neighbors being good neighbors.

Commissioners Bell and Ed Norden expressed last minute reservations.   Norden said while the Board attempted to address concerns raised by caregivers and medical marijuana patients who grow their own plants he feared the commissioners may have swung too far in the other direction.   Bell agreed noting that Pueblo County has a 36 plant limit for marijuana caregiver grows and wondered if that was a number Fremont County needed to move towards.   Bell said “there are a lot of people who do not think a 99 plant limit is a good compromise because it is way too many”.

The commissioners voted to table the ordinance again until their April 12th meeting.    Commission Chairman Norden said following more conversation by the board they hope to have the latest version of the revised ordinance posted on the county web site by April 1st so citizens can review any changes.

The commissioners approved an engagement agreement with George K. Baum Company at their March 22nd meeting for the financing of the Fremont County Jail renovation project.   Since voters approved a one cent sales tax increase for the Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Beicker has been accumulating cash reserves to help finance a complete renovation of the jail’s kitchen and laundry area.

County Finance Director Sunny Bryant said that despite the Sheriff’s efforts to set aside cash, a finance package will still be needed to complete the $5 million project.   George K. Baum will set up a finance package over a seven year period to pay for the renovation using proceeds from the sales tax.   Bryant said the project needed to be financed over seven years so the project can be paid off before the Sheriff’s one cent sales tax reaches its’ ten year sunset.

In other business at the March 22nd Board meeting the commissioners:

  • Approved a Conditional Use Permit for Bennie and Shawnee Koch to resume operations in the Iron Mountain Gravel Pit along Iron Mountain Road 1 ¼ miles east of Copper Gulch Road;
  • Reached agreement with Monty Holmes of Salida who operates Captain Zipline in the Wellsville area.   The commissioners agreed to modify his special review use permit and require him to pay 50 percent of the cost of dust suppressant on County Roads 7 & 45.   Commissioner Debbie Bell also asked that traffic counts be conducted on three occasions in spring, summer, and fall to determine impact from the zip line;
  • Approved a resolution honoring County Manager George Sugars upon his April 1st retirement;
  • Approved a series of bids for purchase of materials for Road & Bridge construction work this summer;
  • Adopted a proclamation declaring April to be observed as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Free Trash Vouchers Part of Spring Cleanup

Local officials and businesses are once again gearing up for the annual Spring Clean-Up and Canon Proud Campaign.  A limited number of trash vouchers for free disposal of household trash, furniture, construction debris, brush, logs, leaves and yard waste will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to Cañon City and Fremont County residents beginning on March 21st and ending on April 30th.  Trash vouchers are good for free disposal of ½ ton (one regular pick-up truck bed) at Twin Enviro’s “Phantom Landfill” at 2500 Fremont County Road 67 (north of the airport), Penrose, 372-6671.  (Amounts of trash in excess of ½ ton will be charged extra on site.)  Hours of operation are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Cañon City residents may pick up a voucher from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday at City Hall, 128 Main Street.  Persons living in unincorporated areas of Fremont County may pick up a voucher from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday in Room 106 of the Fremont County Administration Building, 615 Macon Avenue.   Proof of residency is required when obtaining a voucher.  Only one voucher will be issued per household.  Free disposal will end on April 30, 2016 at 4:00 p.m.  All loads must be covered, and no commercial haulers or contractors qualify for these vouchers. The City of Florence will sponsor their city wide cleanup in late April.

Partners in this event include Twin Enviro Services, R.D. Recycling, Junk Masters, and Call it Gone Metal Recyclers.  In addition to the trash disposal vouchers, the following partners will accept recycling, appliances, vehicles, and specific metals; please contact them directly if their services are desired:

R.D. Recycling, located at 1501 High Street (719-641-0630 or 275-2052) will accept appliances Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for free disposal.  They will also pick up large loads in bulk.  Brass, aluminum, and copper will be purchased at prevailing rates.  They will purchase automobile batteries for $5 each.

All of the Spring Cleanup partners DO NOT accept any tires, TV’s, computer equipment, other electronic equipment, or hazardous waste.

Revised Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance to be Considered

An ordinance to regulate home cultivation of marijuana in unincorporated areas of Fremont County will go back before the Board of Commissioners on second reading with proposed revisions.   At the March 8th first reading of the ordinance a number of people addressed the board saying the marijuana regulations would particularly create an undue hardship on medical marijuana patients who grow their own marijuana or on their caregivers.

Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden said the amended language in the ordinance drops references to acreage limitations and focuses instead on limiting the number of plants to be cultivated.   He said the changes also reflect more latitude for caregivers of medical marijuana patients.    Norden said while the commissioners are trying to respond to the desires of those who cultivate marijuana for medical purposes they still want to maintain the integrity of the ordinance that address the negative impacts to next door neighbors.

A red-lined copy of the amended ordinance has been posted on Fremont County’s home web page at so the public can review where the language has been changed.   The ordinance will come up for consideration on second reading at the Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting at 9:30 a.m. next Tuesday, March 22nd.   The Board expects to receive additional public comment at that time before any final adoption.

Commissioners Hear Reaction to Proposed Marijuana Regulations

An example of outdoor medical marijuana plants under cultivation in Fremont County (courtesy photo)

After listening to public comment for nearly two hours Tuesday morning the Fremont County Board of Commissioners indicated they would consider how new marijuana regulations might be modified to address some of the concerns raised by medical marijuana patients and caregivers.   The ordinance that was discussed on first reading would put into place a comprehensive set of regulations governing the cultivation of both medical marijuana and marijuana for personal use in the unincorporated areas of Fremont County.   As written the ordinance would restrict the number of marijuana plants that could be grown outdoors and minimum acreages required for cultivation.   It would also require screening from public view.   The ordinance also addresses indoor cultivation of marijuana.

Most of the opposition voiced at the meeting came from caregivers and individual growers who use what they grow.   Karen Hunter, a registered caregiver for five medical marijuana patients, said the restrictions will force outdoor growers inside and push people to grow on public lands.  Darren Jones said requiring a minimum of five acres for caregiver grows would “cut the legs off some of us”.   He said limiting caregivers will be hardest on patients who can’t afford to go into the store (and buy medical marijuana).    Chris Garrison and Scott Strong, both military veterans, said the ordinance will punish the people who register and comply.   Both spoke of how medical marijuana has proven to be a great medical benefit compared to the debilitating drugs prescribed by the Veterans Administration.

The commissioners did hear support for the ordinance from people who said tougher regulations are needed for people who want to grow marijuana and ignore the impact on neighbors.  Beverly Krieger who lives in the Meadowdale Ranch subdivision along County Road 3 at Parkdale said some neighbors have moved in specifically to grow marijuana.   She says if they violate state law and use well water to cultivate marijuana it could compromise all of the neighbors’ water wells.   Sheriff Jim Beicker said he supports the ordinance and thinks the restrictions are reasonable.   Noting that violations of the ordinance would be a petty offense subject to fines, the Sheriff said the intent is not to put anyone in jail.

Commission Chairman Ed Norden said he appreciated the thoughtful suggestions the citizens offered particularly regarding the impact on medical marijuana patients and caregivers.   But Norden said the commissioners recognize that regulations are needed.   He said “People are concerned about their neighborhoods and a threat of people moving in for no other purpose than to grow marijuana”.   He added that without regulations, “There is an unfettered explosion of people doing whatever the hell they want”.  Rob Harper of Cañon City urged the commissioners to consider some reasonable change to the ordinance restrictions saying that if the ordinance is approved as written, “You’re only going to force people to go underground”.

The commissioners took no action and said the ordinance will come back before the board on second reading with some anticipated changes.   Commissioner Norden said once amended language is proposed a second draft of the ordinance will be available for public inspection on the county’s website at

Commissioners to Consider Ordinance Regulating Marijuana Cultivation

An ordinance that would regulate the cultivation of marijuana for personal use and by medical marijuana caregivers in unincorporated areas of Fremont County will come up for consideration by the Fremont County Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting next Tuesday, March 8th.    The ordinance will address restrictions on both indoor and outdoor cultivation of marijuana.   The ordinance places specific limits on the number of marijuana plants that can be cultivated.   It also restricts access by requiring fencing on all outdoor marijuana grows and addresses lighting, odors, and limits on visual observation of marijuana plants.

The ordinance will be considered on first reading and the Board of Commissioners will take public comment on the proposed regulations.    Citizens can also submit public comment in writing.   The proposed ordinance can be accessed and reviewed by the public by going to the Fremont County website at and clicking on the link under the public notice on the home web page.

The Board of Commissioners meets at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 8th, in Room LL-3 of the Fremont County Administration Building.

Riverwalk Reopens with Levee Reconstruction

Construction crews were putting the finishing touches this week on the newly reconstructed Arkansas River levee that carries the Riverwalk Trail west of the Raynolds Avenue Bridge.

With three months to go before runoff from winter snowpack again pours down the Arkansas River, Fremont County has successfully completed the reconstruction of a levee that was undermined last June by near record water levels.    The Arkansas Riverwalk reopens Friday morning after the levee 300 yards west of the Raynolds Avenue Bridge was reconstructed over the past month.

Fremont County Manager George Sugars said Whinnery Construction of Lake City completed work on the levee earlier this week.   After first having to divert the stream flow to allow heavy equipment to go to work in the river bed, crews finished installing ten-ton boulders that should protect the levee from any future flooding damage.   The original concrete wall that was constructed in the early 1990’s was undermined and collapsed during the high spring runoff last May and June.

Whinnery Construction was the successful low bidder on the project at a cost of $147,235.   The Board of Commissioners will consider a $40,000 change order at next Tuesday’s meeting to cover the additional cost of finding and installing boulders that met the engineer’s specifications.   Fremont County intends to recover seventy-five percent of the cost of the project from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).   The Cañon City Recreation and Park District also contributed $14,000 towards the initial cost of the project last fall.

This photo depicts the original concrete levee wall that started collapsing last summer during near record spring runoff on the Arkansas River

Copper Gulch Residents Raise Trash Complaints

An example of unfinished construction in western Fremont County that leaves a blight on some mountain neighborhoods. Fremont County secured a court order five years ago to clean up this property. Even then the owner would not comply. When the property went to tax sale the county worked with the new owner to clean up the entire property.

Dressed in red shirts in a display of unity, residents of the Copper Gulch area southwest of Cañon City on Tuesday again voiced their concerns that they are upset with trash filled properties and the proliferation of marijuana grow sites throughout their area.   John Garrou charged that the county has done nothing in hopes that if the county ignores them long enough they will go away.   Garrou is particularly upset about properties that may have secured building permits, started construction, but walked away and abandoned the property.   Garrou said those properties are the responsibility of the county zoning and building departments.

Rich Bandlow said he and his neighbors are upset everyday that they drive past the trash filled properties that aren’t addressed and wonder how they came to be living up there.   Bandlow said that when the “dopers’ moved in two years ago the problems got worse with the marijuana grow sites.  Bandlow said the residents are simply asking for the county to work with them to resolve the problems.

Commission Chairman Ed Norden said the problems are not unique to the Copper Gulch area.   He said the county’s code enforcement officers deal with similar problems around Penrose, Florence, and Cañon City adding that neighboring counties are dealing with the same issues.   Norden said he has to look at the problem from a budgetary standpoint.  He said given the budget cuts the county made during the recession he would have a problem hiring more code enforcement officers and another attorney to pursue all these matters in court when roads across the county continue to be substandard.   Norden said there has to be a median somewhere between enforcement, spending, and getting people to take pride in their own property.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said she agrees that the properties need to be cleaned up.   Bell said however that she believes in personal property rights and the county must follow due process of law in forcing property owners to comply and clean up their properties.   Bell and Norden said the county will continue to meet with staff to monitor progress on cleaning up problem sites across the county.

The commissioners on Tuesday also voted to approve a zone change for MountainDale Campground along Barrett Road located just south of the Fremont-El Paso County line.   Brian Emry was seeking the zone change from Ag Forestry to Travel Trailer Park and Campground zone in order to pursue expansion of the MountainDale Campground.     A number of neighbors along Barrett Road protested the zone change citing concerns about the threat of wildfire from campfires, drainage issues, increased traffic, depressed property values, and trespassing on private property by campers.    Several said the trespass problems already exist and will only get worse.

Emry said he has worked to resolve specific cases of trespass that came to his attention and has an employee who is vigilant about checking on campfires late at night to make sure campfires have been extinguished.   Emry also said he has an approved fire plan and 30,000 gallons of water storage, in addition to water on trucks and trailers.

In approving the zone change the Board of Commissioners noted that the MountainDale Campground has existed along Barrett Road since 1943 long before many of the residents built homes on neighboring property.   Chairman Norden said for that reason he believes the neighbors' concerns about lower property values are unfounded.

In other business at Tuesday’s regular board meeting the commissioners:

  • Adopted a proclamation declaring March 10th as National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day;
  • Approved a resolution terminating a conditional use permit for the AZCO gravel pit which earlier ceased operations;
  • Approved a waiver for an annexation impact report for property owned by Sam and Dawn Smith who want to annex their property into the City of Cañon City.

River Levee Reconstruction Underway

Whinnery Construction of Lake City has rerouted the flow of the Arkansas River west of the Raynolds Avenue Bridge as levee reconstruction is underway. A block wall along the flood control dike was undermined during flooding and runoff last May and June. The $147,000 project should be completed within several weeks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse Fremont County for 75% of the cost.

Commissioners Approve Amended Plan for Accessory Dwelling Units

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners gave final approval to an amended plan to allow Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) in Fremont County at Tuesday’s regular meeting.    The ADU proposal was tabled from the November 24th meeting following opposition voiced by the Penrose Water District and the Beaver Park Water District.    Both argued that allowing ADU’s would increase density and create more demand for water which Penrose is not in the position to provide.

To address that problem the commissioners opted to amend the ADU proposal by doing away with a countywide overlay zone.  Instead the county will rely on a permitting process whereby a water provider such as the Penrose Water District could deny water service for Accessory Dwelling Units.   Penrose Water has already indicated they would require a second water tap for such ADU’s instead of connecting to the existing water line.

Commission Chairman Ed Norden said the ADU zoning amendment still requires a minimum lot size of one acre for ADU’s, that the property owner live in one of the residences, that the ADU have a separate entrance, that utilities be shared with the main residence, and that the primary residence be built on the property before the ADU.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said despite the continued opposition from the Penrose Water District the ADU proposal had a lot of support when it was first proposed last fall as a way to deal with the existing housing shortage in Fremont County.   District 1 Commissioner Tim Payne said there was also support from people who wanted to add on a so-called ‘mother-in-law’ cottage to house aging parents or their adult children who might not be able to afford other housing options.

The ADU amendment goes into force with adoption by the commissioners.    Persons wanting to add an ADU on their property must initiate an application process through the Fremont County Office of Planning and Zoning.

The commissioners on Tuesday also voted to approve the purchase of 20 Chevy Tahoes as part of the sweeping replacement of vehicles at the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department.   Replacement of the Sheriff’s high mileage fleet of cars was among the priorities listed when voters approved a one cent sales tax increase for the Sheriff two years ago.    County Finance Director Sunny Bryant said the fleet purchase is being accomplished through a lease-purchase arrangement in the amount of $1.2 million through U.S. Bancorp.    Bryant said after this initial 20 vehicle purchase the Sheriff proposes to rotate out about four vehicles each year in the future.

In other business at the February 9th board meeting the commissioners:

  • Heard the Fremont County Tourism Council’s annual report from FCTC Chairman Steve Kaverman;
  • Approved leases with Skip Moreau and Jason Dawson for skydiving landing zones at the Fremont County Airport;
  • Scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday, February 23rd at 10:00 a.m. on a zone change request from Ag Forestry Zone to Travel Trailer Park and Campground zone for the Mountaindale Campground along Barrett Road near the Fremont-El Paso County line.   Mountaindale wants to expand to allow 26 new RV sites and convert existing cabins to other uses.    The campground has operated for decades along Barrett Road as a non-conforming use within the Ag-Forestry zone.

Commissioners Set to Decide on Accessory Dwelling Units

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners are set to make a decision at their Tuesday meeting on whether to permit Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) on properties in the county.   The Commissioners tabled the issue at their November 24th meeting last fall after hearing opposition from the Penrose area.  The ADU proposal came forward as a way to provide alternative and affordable housing if property owners have large enough lots to construct living space adjacent to their primary residence.

The Penrose Water District and Beaver Park Water opposed the ADU amendment saying their districts do not have enough water to support an increase in density.   The amendment that comes back before the Commissioners at Tuesday morning’s meeting will hopefully resolve that issue.  The amended language requires the property owner to show “Written proof from the appropriate entity or service provider that water and sewer/septic services are adequate for all uses on the parcel.”   Because some Penrose residents may have their own water wells it would permit them to pursue an ADU while Penrose Water District customers would have to get written approval from the district to proceed.

The rest of the amendment would still permit two residences on a single parcel that is a minimum of one acre in size.   The ADU could be no larger than 1,000 square feet, have no more than two bedrooms, and only one bathroom.   The ADU’s would share utilities with the primary residence.   The property owner would also be required to reside in one of the residences.  Over the years county officials have heard requests from property owners who wanted to construct living space next to their primary residence so that might care for aging parents or provide space for other family members.

The ADU amendment is on the agenda for reconsideration at the Board of Commissioners meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, February 9th, at the Fremont County Administration Building.