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Council, residents 'not pleased' about Aurora dispensary

Starbuds marijuana shop slated to open in area flanked by Centennial


Longtime residents may know Aurora has a standalone swath of property at the intersection of Arapahoe and Parker roads — including the Arapahoe Crossings and Cornerstar shopping centers.

A pot dispensary is scheduled to open April 19 at 14655 E. Arapahoe Road, a few blocks west of Parker Road, near Jordan Road.

“This puts a marijuana dispensary right in the center of our city,” said Councilmember Ron Weidmann at the March 19 Centennial City Council meeting. The area is roughly surrounded by Centennial to the east and west.

Centennial passed a prohibition on medical marijuana businesses in 2011 and on all marijuana businesses and facilities in 2014.

“We have spoken to the City of Aurora previously,” said Weidmann, who represents District 4, the nearby northeastern part of Centennial. “It's a difficult situation, as the City of Centennial doesn't want this type of use on our city borders, but ultimately this property is zoned for retail sales, is in the City of Aurora and their decision.”

Surrounding Centennial neighborhoods are “not pleased” with a dispensary opening at the location, Weidmann said.

“Having a dispensary smack in the middle of our city is generating a lot of animosity toward Aurora,” said Andrea Suhaka, secretary of the Centennial Council of Neighborhoods, or CenCON. “Of course, they're not listening to anyone in Centennial, and that's more bad blood.”

At least a year ago, city officials from Aurora and Centennial held a neighborhood meeting at the nearby Valley Country Club clubhouse about a proposed cannabis shop at the location, where Starbuds is now scheduled to open. Bob Roth, Aurora city councilmember for the area, estimated that at least 100 community members attended the meeting.

“The general breakdown was that the Centennial folks had strong concerns that this was in a location basically surrounded by Centennial but in Aurora, and that their citizens would be confused about whose jurisdiction the facility was in,” Roth said. “Both communities were concerned that there would be negative connotations in regards to the facility and that it would adversely affect people's views of the area. There were also concerns about specific businesses in the area being affected and about the possibility of underage purchases of retail cannabis.”

Aurora has an exceptionally stringent policy in place to regulate the retail marijuana business, Roth said. For example, state law doesn't allow an operator to have a felony drug conviction, but Aurora goes further and bars any felony conviction, or any misdemeanor drug conviction, Roth said.

The vote in 2012 for Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution, which legalized retail marijuana and recreational use in Colorado, was about 55 percent in favor and 45 percent against statewide. In Centennial, a larger proportion of residents voted against the amendment, but only slightly, with about 51 percent opposed and 49 percent in favor. District 4 showed a small majority of votes in favor, and other support was intermittent throughout the rest of the city, but most residents closest to where the new shop is scheduled to open were opposed.

Spurred by the location of the future shop, Centennial City Council plans to send a letter to its counterpart in Aurora.

“The city attorney is drafting a letter from the Centennial City Council to the Aurora City Council,” Weidmann said. “The letter is simply an intra-governmental relations item reinforcing that we work together on mutual issues.”

The business met the highest standards of Aurora's request for proposal for retail ownership, all state standards and other city requirements for a business in Aurora — like the city's other dispensaries, Roth said.

“I know that there are many citizens who are still adamantly opposed to this industry,” said Roth, adding he recognizes their right to their opinion. In Aurora, “the vote of the people was almost identical to the statewide vote,” so “we did not feel it was right to bypass that will by making policy decisions in contrast to the election.

“So we chose to legislate this with great caution, which we have done,” Roth said.


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