Friday, February 18, 2011

Mountain Town News


Pot shop gets variance for back-door location

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo.—Breckenridge walks a tightrope in how it deals with dispensaries of medical marijuana. Along with the majority of Coloradans, town residents voted several years ago to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. And, taking another step, they voted to legalize it within Breckenridge altogether.

Still, marijuana remains a touchy subject. Town officials do not allow dispensaries at all on ground-floor locations in the Main Street business district, where tourists congregate. Further, the council adopted a moratorium on new dispensaries in the same area.

As such, the case of a dispensary called Medicine Man posed significant questions of justice when its proprietor recently appeared before the Town Council. The Summit Daily News explains the business had been operating out of a second-story location on Main Street. Then, because other tenants of the building complained about the odors, the landowner did not renew the lease.

The business owner, Frank Torrealba, told council members that he found another Main Street location, one that would have the entire top level of a building, eliminating complaints of odors. Further, there's an off-street entrance and, much to the liking of at least some council members, he will have no outside sign.

"The signage piece is a big deal for me," said Councilman Eric Mamula, explaining his support for a variance to the town's moratorium. "That's the part that affects our guests."

The same night, the council passed a law prohibiting the smell of marijuana from being perceptible outside private homes where it is grown.

A thin line between peaceful and boring

BASALT, Colo.—Leaf-blowers seem to be the cause of the loudest complaints provoking Basalt's adoption of a noise ordinance.

The law limits most noisy activities, such as lawnmowers and power tools, to between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., reports The Aspen Times. It allows some exceptions, such as for music on patio bars on Friday and Saturday nights.

But council members, while wanting greater tranquility, also have been warned by one of their own, Pete McBride, that they are in danger of being a "fuddy-duddy" town.

Guide apologizes for spraying captive bear

JACKSON, Wyo.—A 26-year-old hunting, fishing and float-trip guide who admits he sprayed a caged bear with pepper spray rues the deed, blaming it on alcohol.

"I think it was a cruel thing to do, your honor. It was one of the worst decisions I've ever made," said the guide, Tyler Steele.

Grand Teton National Park wildlife managers had captured the black bear in a culvert trap after it broke into the main lodge building of the Triangle X Ranch, where the guide worked. The guide said he was drunk and incited by his friends to spray the bear. The bear did nothing when he sprayed the pepper.

The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin, a chemical derived from chilies and other plants in the Capsicum genus.

Even in Aspen, the recovery is cautious

ASPEN, Colo.—Mirroring reports from other mountain valleys and, indeed, much of the United States, The Aspen Times reports signs of an improved economy. But one architect says he refuses to string together "cautious" and "optimism" into the same sequence.

"We're cautious as hell," said John Cottle, a partner in Cottle Carr Yaw Architects, a firm with roots 40 years deep in the Roaring Fork Valley, where Aspen is located. "It's still a very sober environment out there."

Construction remains down, of course, even if the sale of high-end homes began accelerating in 2010, particularly late in the year. Prices are down 30 to 50 percent from their pre-recession euphoria. As elsewhere, activity has picked up most quickly in Aspen itself, with less friskiness in outlying communities such as Basalt and Carbondale.

Tourism, of course, survived the recession much better. But even as occupancy rates pick up, rates continues to decline. One firm that rents luxury condominiums in Aspen told the newspaper that occupancy levels have increased more than 10 percent this year, but the average daily room is down.

"They know, like we do, that there's room at the inn," said Chuck Frias, co-owner of the firm, Frias Properties.

But as has been the case almost everywhere, December had a much greater bustle. Some of that bustle was in evident in the local buses, operated by Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

While 2010 altogether had the fewest riders since 2004, December ridership was up substantially.

"We appear to have reached the bottom and we've started to come back up," said Dan Blankenship, chief executive.

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