RIDGWAY – Ridgway Mayor John Clark opened the regular March council meeting on March 13 with a proclamation that was not on the agenda.
He had invited Jen and Randy Charrette, parents of the slain 2-year-old, so much on everyone’s minds recently, because he wanted them to know that the town was designating Feb. 15 Axel Charrette Day (Axel was born on Feb. 15, 2011).
“As mayor, I wanted to find a way to remember Axel. We will have a plaque made to be placed somewhere in town, somewhere of your choice. And we look forward to a wonderful celebration on that day,” Clark said.
Councilor Rick Weaver added an idea of his own. “You know we have that kids/beginner-type [mountain bike] trail out at Weaver Park. Maybe it would be appropriate to call it Axel’s Loop.”
The Charrettes, with members of their immediate family, some of whom had flown in from as far as Australia for Axel’s memorial service the evening before, thanked council with tearful smiles.
COUNCIL OBJECTS TO SMPA FEE AS UNFAIR
Concurring with the complaints of several citizens, the Ridgway Town Council last week voted unanimously to send a letter to San Miguel Power Association questioning the electric co-op’s decision, effective April 1, to charge households an additional $300 per year should they choose to opt out of the new smart meter technology.
“I totally agree with you that this is not a fair fee,” said Mayor John Clark. “And while I appreciate that taking meter readers’ trucks off the highway hugely reduces greenhouse gasses, it seems the fee is totally out of proportion with the benefits to SMPA.”
One ratepayer suggested the letter ask for a board meeting “here, in Ridgway, where their offices are,” in addition to the scheduled public meeting in Nucla. “That’s a 200-mile round trip for someone from Silverton,” he said, in order to voice an opinion before SMPA’s board.
“Yes,” added Councilor Jason Gunning, “get them to explain the math. Why is it that big of a fee?”
AMENDMENT 64 STRETCHES THINKING ON MARIJUANA
Ridgway Town Attorney John Kappa presented a draft ordinance to the council last week that would adjust the town’s medical marijuana regulations to accommodate legalized recreational marijuana, as anticipated by Amendment 64.
His draft met with confusion and some resistance, particularly to the number of new marijuana business licenses that would be allowed.
“I assume you want to limit the number of licenses,” Kappa said, and council agreed. Currently, the town can issue a maximum 12 medical marijuana licenses: for four dispensaries, four associated grow operations and four infused-product manufacturers. Kappa’s draft ordinance would allow 12 more “in four categories: grow, dispense, infused, and, a new category, marijuana testing.”
“I personally would feel more comfortable to wait and see what the state [task force] will do” this spring, said Councilor Jim Kavanaugh. “Didn’t Ouray pass a moratorium? I think there was a lot of wisdom in that.”
“The only thing the City of Ouray passed was a moratorium on private smoking clubs,” said Mayor John Clark.
“That’s right,” Kappa said. “Clubs are not addressed in this [draft] ordinance. Amendment 64 doesn’t allow smoking in public. But when does a private place become a public place?”
The council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance minus Section 2, on the number of licenses allowed. “Let’s wait and see what the state comes up with,” said Clark.
“There is no urgency on this,” Kappa said, on deciding the number of new licenses. “Section One, which just deals with zoning, will bring us into compliance with state law.”
There is currently one licensed grow-op in the county and a related dispensary in Ridgway town limits.
$1,000 SCHOLARSHIP AVAILABLE TO RHS STUDENT
Councilor Jason Gunning reminded council that time is short for college-bound students to apply for the town’s $1,000 scholarship. The application deadline is April 13, Gunning, who is also a teacher at Ridgway Secondary School, said. The winner will be announced at the school’s awards banquet May 22.
“It’s a super simple application,” Gunning said, “with an essay on how specifically you have served the community of Ridgway.” Last year’s scholarship went to RHS senior Sam Middleton, who helped build the town’s new skate park.
The idea, Gunning said, is to encourage community involvement by local young people.
MOTEL SIGN SPARKS DEBATE
Mayor John Clark reported to council last week about conversations with John Foy, owner of Ridgway Lodge and Suites, who is “demanding a pedestal sign” along Highway 550 for his motel. Clark explained that Ridgway’s commercial sign code “requires that signs be put on buildings, not on pedestals, or poles.”
The recent construction of a Family Dollar store next door has prevented drivers at the Hwy 62 intersection from seeing the lodge’s sign. Family Dollar has since paid to have the motel’s sign moved to the west edge of the building, making it visible from the stoplight. “But they have also planted trees, which will some day obscure the motel sign. And, bottom line, [Foy] wants his pedestal sign.” Should we accommodate him? Clark asked.
“It’s commerce. I’m OK with it,” said Councilor Jason Gunning.
“There are still lots of [undeveloped] lots there” on the east side of the highway, said Councilor Ellen Hunter. “You could have pole after pole, like Montrose” once the precedent was set.
Citizen Tom McKinney said, “You’re talking about a change that is radical.”
Clark suggested drafting a letter to Foy “saying we will resolve the trees issue, and that the town is working on new commercial design guidelines, but there is nothing we can do further at this time.”
KAVANAUGH VOLUNTEERS FOR ONE-YEAR TERM
Ridgway Town Clerk Pam Kraft brought up what might have been a ticklish situation at last week’s regular council meeting: which councilor, among the four newly seated, would draw the short straw and serve only a one-year term?
Kraft cancelled the April municipal election because only four people – all incumbents –applied to run for the four vacant seats.
Three of those seats are for full two-year terms. But the one to which Bo James Nerlin was appointed last year will be up again in just one year. In an actual election, the new councilor with the lowest vote total would take the shorter term.
Councilor Jim Kavanaugh raised his hand and volunteered for the one-year term. “I feel bad that nobody else applied,” Kavanaugh said.
“That’s because they think we’re doing a good job,” said Mayor John Clark. “The only times we’ve had a lot of contested seats is when they’re mad at us.”