Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

25 Jul 2014

Third Avenue Boulevard Association bullies dispensary from opening as recreational retailer

Posted by Adam Howell


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You may have heard about schoolyard bullies, or online bullies, but have you ever heard of an organized association of bullies made up of homeowners?

"Bully-vard" Association member Steve Walker, center, tried to bully this blogger from attending one of their public meetings. He failed. Tom Darnell, on the right, has bullied Acme's Manager David Niccum at a city council meeting by telling him that the sign in his front yard is illegal for being too big.

“Bully-vard” Association member Steve Walker, center, tried to bully this blogger from attending one of their public meetings. He failed. Tom Darnell, on the right, has bullied Acme’s Manager David Niccum at a city council meeting by telling him that the sign in his front yard is illegal for being too large.

Meet the Third Avenue Boulevard Association, also known as the ‘Bully-vard’ Association from East Third Avenue in Durango.

Since the mid-1980’s they’ve bullied away four prospective bed-and-breakfasts, a public library, a recreational marijuana dispensary, and tried to prevent the conversion of the Smiley Building from a former school to the offices of community organizations, businesses and non-profits that wanted to exist on their street.

Most recently, a medical marijuana dispensary called the Acme Healing Center wanted to obtain a license to open up as a recreational pot shop.

IMG_2357Durango’s City Council drafted an ordinance for potential recreational marijuana retailers like Acme to be allowed in mixed-use neighborhoods like the one at College Drive and East Third Avenue.

Durango’s ordinance allowing recreational pot shops was passed in June, but the city council is having a public hearing Tuesday on an amendment to it that would ban pot shops from the mixed-use neighborhoods of College Drive and East Eighth Avenue.

Most of College Drive and Eighth Avenue has already been excluded from having pot shops because of their thousand-foot proximity to a school, but there’s an owner of a commercial building outside the buffer that says he would lease space there to a licensed recreational pot store that would pay the rent.

This commercial building at 225 East Eighth Ave, belonging to Jean-Pierre Bleger's business called Mondorivoli LLC, would be prohibited from leasing to recreational pot shops under a proposed amendment to Durango's recreational marijuana ordinance.

This commercial building at 225 East Eighth Ave, belonging to Jean-Pierre Bleger’s business called Mondorivoli LLC, would be prohibited from leasing to recreational pot shops under a proposed amendment to Durango’s recreational marijuana ordinance.

“If it’s a legal thing that can be done, as a landlord I would be having a hard time to say no to somebody just because it’s a little bit like somebody is an Asian or a black or an Indian,” said Jean-Pierre Bleger, owner of the commercial building at 225 East Eighth Ave. “I wouldn’t be able to say no.”

Bleger relates the creation of Acme to the creation of any marijuana business in town.

“Has it been affecting the neighborhood? That’s the question we should ask,” said Bleger.

“Did the creation of this business, has it deteriorated the good living of Third Avenue, or not,” said Bleger. “This I don’t know, but I don’t think so.”

In June, ACME Healing Center, a local medical marijuana dispensary in town, asked the city to allow them to convert to a recreational pot shop, which also meant that they were asking the city to amend the land-use code to allow all recreational marijuana retailers to exist in mixed-use neighborhoods.

David Tart, of East Third Avenue, has been pushing city council to exclude recreational pot shops from East Third Avenue because of perceived parking problems that would result from it.

David Tart, of the East Third Avenue Boulevard Association, has been pushing city council to exclude recreational pot shops from East Third Avenue because of perceived parking problems that would result from it. Photo by City Span 10.

Acme had plenty of supporters attending the meetings, but the Third Avenue Boulevard Association asked city council to prohibit recreational pot shops from existing anywhere in mixed-use neighborhoods.

Resisting this discrimination, the city council and city planning commission voted to allow recreational pot shops in mixed-use neighborhoods.

Acme was optimistic, but after discovering that the Association was consulting an attorney to fight the ordinance through a referendum, they withdrew their retail permit application in order to prevent the city from delaying the processing of other dispensary’s applications.

Three days later, the Association submitted affidavits for a committee of circulators to collect signatures on a referendum to repeal the entire recreational marijuana ordinance.

While the likelihood of the referendum passing in an election is slim, given the amount of locals who voted for Amendment 64 in 2012, Acme didn’t want to hold up the processing of the other existing dispensary’s applications.

Michael Todt, of the East Third Avenue Boulevard Association, told Councilor Brant that Acme has not been problematic for the neighborhood, but if they converted to a recreational retailer would negatively impact parking access on the street and create dangerous exposure to kids who would see the shop. Todt said he has never seen people smoking pot outside of the center. Photo courtesy of City Span 10.

Michael Todt, of the East Third Avenue Boulevard Association, told Councilor Brant on June 3rd that Acme has not been problematic for the neighborhood, but if they converted to a recreational retailer it would negatively impact parking access on the street and create dangerous exposure to kids who would see the shop. Todt said he has never seen people smoking pot outside of the center. Photo by City Span 10.

“There’s too many upset individuals around us, and we don’t want to have that many people hating us that are our neighbors,” said Acme bud tender Chase Gobel. “It’s just not good for the community; not good for business.”

“We’re going to run medical all day out of this location. Yeah, love the location. Business is picking up a lot,” said Gobel. “And we’ll get another retail location, have people come over here and then we’ll shuttle them to the retail spot. We’ll get it worked out.”

Residents with the Neighborhood Boulevard Association have also claimed that if Acme opened a recreational retail marijuana store on East Third Ave, it would hurt their property values.

Jean-Pierre Bleger says that there’s a gorgeous house next to Hood Mortuary on East Third Avenue that he thinks the Association’s argument can be related to. The home sold for $1.2 million last year, according to La Plata County Assessor’s Office Eagleweb database.

“Does the idea of having twenty dead bodies right next to you not feel very comforting? Does it affect the value,” said Bleger. “I would think not.”

Attendees of the first Babtist Church on East 11th Avenue don't even bother parking a few blocks away to walk to church last Sunday--they just parked right in the middle of one of the lanes on East Third Avenue.

Attendees of the first Babtist Church on East 11th Avenue don’t even bother parking a few blocks away to walk to church last Sunday–they just parked right in the middle of one of the lanes on East Third Avenue.

Since January, when Acme moved into their current location at 572 East Third Ave, two homes have sold on the Avenue. Their sale prices cannot be meaningfully compared because their condition and assessed improvements varied greatly.

Most properties on Third Avenue will appreciate just because people want to live there, according to La Plata County Assessor Craig Larson. A lot of times when people purchase homes there they will remodel and modernize the interiors immediately, he said.

On average, properties in town will appreciate by about ten percent in 2014, said Larson.

“Their contention about that—I mean people say that all the time—if they don’t want something in their backyard, they say it’s going to lower their property values,” said Larson. “The parking is an issue; of course it’s always been an issue for people on Third Avenue.”

IMG_2329

Outside the Durango Christian Church, attendees park in the middle of the left lane of East Third Avenue on Sundays since the church doesn’t provide official parking spaces.

“They’re concerned that it (a recreational pot shop) will lower their value, but I don’t think—I could maybe talk to the appraiser who works in that area—we haven’t seen it affecting it too much mainly because it’s a historic area,” he said.

“Unfortunately, that card used a lot of times by the next-door neighbors is a little bit—it can’t be proven very well in the market place sometimes–unless you stuck a pig farm in there,” said Larson. “That probably would do it, knowing the smell of a pig.”

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