Mayor Jim Collins held a special meeting at Town Hall on May 16 to review a recent vote by council members to retain the city's marijuana zoning regulations as approved on Feb. 12.

Collins cited confusion among council members during discussion of the February ordinance's wording and said he held the meeting to make sure council members understood what they'd previously voted for.

City Council voted 4-2 at the May 14 meeting to retain the original zoning regulations laid out in the city's ordinance. Council members Troy Abdulla and David Armstrong voted no.

The vote followed discussion about a loophole of sorts within the ordinance: the Child Development Services building at 138 6th St. is not considered by the state or federal government to be a childcare facility, and thus state statutes limiting marijuana businesses to be at least 1,000 feet away from childcare facilities do not apply to the CDS building. Las Animas' ordinance defers to state statues on regulatory distance.

"The impression that I took away from the community input was that they assumed day cares were day cares regardless of what we call them," Collins said at the May 14 city council meeting. "They were recommending the 1,000 foot (zoning regulation)."

Collins replayed audio of the council's discussion at the special meeting so that council members could retrace their decisions and be sure that they voted as they intended.

Before Collins played back the audio, he said he wasn't sure if they would be able to amend a vote should it come to that, but that he'd speak with City Attorney Sam Vigil about the matter if need be.

At the meeting, council members shared input from constituents they'd talked to regarding marijuana zoning regulations. Feedback was mixed.

Councilman Frank Schmeisser said constituents seemed indifferent to the matter in his discussions with them. Abdulla said he'd received a variety of feedback from his constituents and that he had people knocking on his door to voice their concerns about marijuana businesses being allowed to set up shop within 1,000 feet of the CDS building.

"I got everything from, 'Do not let that devil's lettuce near my kids,' to 'Eh,'" said Armstrong. "It's difficult and it's definitely a hard one to think of."

Councilwoman Janice Cline said she spoke with people at CDS and said they were surprised to learn they were not considered a school by the state or federal government.

"They did remind me that they also have federal funding," said Cline.

City Council had three options to cast their vote toward at the city council meeting, as City Attorney Sam Vigil explained.

Council could vote to retain the ordinance in the form that it was passed in, which would keep CDS excluded from the state set zoning regulations of 1,000 feet that Las Animas's ordinance defers to.

Council could also choose to adopt the same 1,000 feet regulations to apply to CDS as well. Or, council could adopt an entirely separate set of regulations at whatever distance they chose that would apply to the CDS building and like facilities.

Council members ultimately voted to keep the ordinance's regulations as is by a vote of 4-2.

Collins asked the council if everyone was comfortable with what they voted for after reviewing council's previous discussion on the matter.

"I just think that this has worked in many, many places," Cline added. "These shops are very safe."

Collins adjourned the meeting, stating that the vote stands as it is.

"Where I voted no is when the vote came out, I felt like our citizens thought that CDS would fall within that 1,000-foot rule and I did not want to waver from that because that's the vote that I felt went through," Armstrong told the Bent County Democrat after the special hearing.

cburney@ljtdmail.com