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Residents to meet on new city rules

Voters may weigh-in on pot, vacation rentals with referendum, initiative

While the Durango City Council has approved final rules on vacation rentals and recreational marijuana, some residents aren’t so sure these issues are settled.

The Boulevard Neighborhood Association Inc. and Citizens for Healthy Established Neighborhoods plan to meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at First Presbyterian Church at 12th Street and East Third Avenue for a candid conversation on the council’s new ordinances. The meeting is in the Westminster Room at the 12th Street entrance.

“We’re just trying to get people in one room at one time, so we can get this thing figured out,” resident Karen Anesi said. “This is being seen as an opportunity now to run roughshod over Durango’s established neighborhoods.”

Some Durango residents who live near downtown and on the avenues are upset with how the City Council decided the controversies, and they have suggested starting a referendum and initiative process.

A referendum is a proposal to the council to repeal the law, which suspends the law pending the referendum vote. If the council rejects it, the proposal can go to a public vote.

An initiative allows residents to write their own ordinance and give it to the City Council for consideration, and it can be voted on by the public if it’s denied.

Residents can pursue both options simultaneously. An affidavit to start the referendum process must be filed with the city clerk within 30 days of the final ordinance approval, which was June 16. Filing an affidavit suspends the ordinance pending the outcome.

The new code caps vacation rentals at 5 percent, allowing up to 35 in the downtown neighborhood and 28 on the West Second, Third and Fourth avenues. East Second Avenue north of the Durango Recreation Center is also part of the avenue’s neighborhood.

The second rental has to obtain a conditional-use permit. Vacation rentals could be located next to each other in mixed-use residential buildings if the applicant shows he or she has distributed local contact information for the vacation rental to all unit owners and tenants in the building.

“If I had to bet, I would bet it would be both a referendum and an initiative,” resident Joe Gambone said after last week’s vote. “It was a very arrogant vote (by the council).”

Some residents are also upset the City Council allowed retail marijuana stores in mixed-use neighborhoods, especially the one located near College Drive and East Third Avenue. Acme Healing Center at 572 East Third Ave. wants to have the option to convert to retail after July 1 or have a medical pot dispensary and retail pot store at the same location.

Councilor Dick White said at a council meeting earlier this month that banning marijuana in mixed-use neighborhoods would also affect Rocky Mountain High, a dispensary in Ptarmigan Center off East Animas Road (County Road 250).

“I have trouble when I really sit back and try to rationalize a solid explanation for why I would vote ‘no,’” he said at the time. “I come back to the fact that what’s left here is that we’re singling out a particular kind of business because it’s new.”

Anesi said it’s time residents had a frank discussion on both issues and decide what action, including a referendum and initiative, residents want to pursue.

smueller@durangoherald.com

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