Editor's note: this article orginally appeared in the June 8 edition of the Times.
Bayfield voters will decide in November the issue of selling marijuana in town limits.
The town board is set to hear staff recommendations on June 24 on what items should be covered in an election, then take public comment at a special board public forum at 7 p.m. on June 28.
A downtown-area resident brought the concept back before the board this winter, and the first public forum on the issue fell decidedly in the "no sales" camp.
During their discussion of in-town sales on Tuesday, June 5, board members said they want to put the issue to town voters, in large part to get a definitive answer on the issue. Bayfield currently bans retail and medical sales and commercial cultivation of marijuana in town limits and within three miles of the town.
"I've heard it both ways," Ashleigh Tarkington, a board trustee, said of the many people who have talked to her about the issue. "It's a disservice not to let those people decide." Some residents don't want to speak in favor of legal sales in town for fear of being ostracized, she added.
Brenna Morlan, another trustee, concurred.
Mayor Matt Salka and Trustee Matt Nyberg said they hope a public vote can decide the issue, at least for a few years.
David Black said he favors legalized sales and would like to have the board vote on it, but he will go along with the other board members in holding the public vote.
"I hate to have our money going down the road," he said of legalized sales in Durango and Pagosa Springs. The board also was looking that evening at park plans for downtown Bayfield, and the town needs money to pay for parks and other amenities, he added.
Another trustee, Kelly Polites, recused herself from the vote because she is considering opening a retail marijuana business.
During more public comment at the start of Tuesday's meeting, one town resident asked to lift the marijuana sales ban, one resident said it should remain in place, and two county residents agreed with her.
"This is your chance to take a risk," said Jackie Morlan, who thanked the board members for considering such a vote. "I am tired of our taxes going to Durango, aren't you?" Even a small boost in tax revenues for the town could pay for better signs to direct visitors to town parks and amenities, she noted.
Town resident Connie Cusenza said retail pot sales could harm local businesses in ways that can't be foreseen yet.
Jerry Fleener, who lives close to town, said if trustees want to consider lifting the ban, it should be put to a public vote.
If the town board wants to lift the ban on cultivating marijuana within three miles of town limits, "where are these people going to get their water?" asked Phyllis Ludwig, who sits on a local ditch board. Even property owners with water rights from ditches can't use that water for marijuana cultivation because the water is federally managed, she explained.
Before the marijuana vote, trustees heard from Peter Tregillus of Road Runner Transit in Ignacio. Later this year, Road Runner will request the town increase its funding from $11,000 to $12,000 to cover part of the costs of Road Runner's three daily trips to Durango.
"We're making sure there's a lifeline for people to get to Durango," Tregillus said of riders who use the service to get to medical care and jobs there.
Board members also decided to postpone this year's fireworks on Independence Day, possibly to Bayfield Heritage Days at the end of September. Having fireworks while area wildfires are threatening homes is a bad idea, board members stated.