Colorado Springs Planning Commissioner Janet Suthers has sent a letter to religious leaders in Colorado Springs suggesting they weigh in on whether the city should impose a 1,000-foot buffer on pot dispensaries rather than a 400-foot limit now under consideration.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to address various proposed city measures regulating medical marijuana facilities Thursday morning.
In her letter, Suthers notes that, “The ordinance under consideration states that facilities are not to be located less than 400 feet from K-12 schools, residential child care facilities, and drug and alcohol treatment centers. There is no mention of parks, colleges, day care centers, preschools, churches, synagogues or mosques.”
According to Suthers, “An alternative proposal would include churches, synagogues and mosques and increases the spacing requirement to 1,000 feet.”
It’s not clear whether Suthers’ action might cause her to be disqualified from voting on the matter.
The item in question is “quasi-judicial” in nature. In such cases, commissioners must base their decisions on the facts presented to them at the hearing, as well as upon the testimony of members of the public, rather than push their own ideas.
Told of Suthers’ letter, Vice Mayor Larry Small termed it “inappropriate.”
“As a planning commissioner, she shouldn’t be doing this,” he said. “She should listen to community input instead of trying to create it herself.”
Councilmember Sean Paige, a supporter of the dispensaries who supports the 400-foot limit, was also displeased by Suthers’ action.
“I saw the letter,” he said, “and I find it troubling that Ms. Suthers is out trying to stir up opposition, rather than listening to the facts.
“The fact is that a 1,000 foot buffer is a de facto ban – which is exactly what Ms. Suthers, her husband (Attorney General John Suthers), and (District Attorney) Dan May want. This is the way the anti-medical marijuana reactionaries work together. They’ve never accepted Amendment 20 (which legalized medical marijuana) and they don’t have the courage to try to get repeal on the ballot – so they’re trying to do it through the back door with regulations.”
Here is the text of the letter:
“Dear Pastors and Rabbis,
“In addition to my service on the board of the Center for Christian Jewish Dialogue, I am a member of the City Planning Commission.
“The City Planning Commission will be voting on a city ordinance zoning medical marijuana dispensaries on Thursday morning, September 16th, at the Pikes Peak Regional Development Center, 2880 International Circle. The meeting starts at 8:30 but there is one agenda item before dispensaries that I’m guessing will take about an hour.
“The ordinance under consideration states that facilities are not to be located less than 400 feet from K-12 schools, residential child care facilities, and drug and alcohol treatment centers. There is no mention of parks, colleges, day care centers, preschools, churches, synagogues or mosques.
“An alternative proposal would include churches, synagogues and mosques and increases the spacing requirement to 1,000 feet.
“I am inviting you to attend this public meeting and make your preferences known to the Planning Commission. If you cannot attend, a verbal statement from another leader in your organization to the Commission would be valuable in helping the Commission make a good decision. An email to Dick Anderwald, Planning and Development manager, would also be useful. Dick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.”