Officials discuss cannabis issues
June 16, 2021
Water issues, building and zoning codes and distance from churches and schools were among complications involved with establishing a legalized recreational cannabis industry in Tucumcari that were discussed in a Tucumcari City Commission work session before Thursday’s regular commission meeting.
Because Tucumcari is along Interstate 40 about 40 miles from the Texas border, city officials are hopeful the city could prosper from out-of-state visits to purchase and consume marijuana and cannabis products.
Connie Loveland, a member of the commission’s cannabis study committee and director of the city’s MainStreet organization, reported Thursday on a visit to Trinidad, Colorado, another city just inside the border of a state that has legalized recreational marijuana and cannabis sales.
Trinidad, population about 8,000, is about 20 miles north of Raton along Interstate 25 and has acquired a reputation as a marijuana boomtown.
“That community is the closest to what we can expect here,” Loveland said.
Loveland noted that growing marijuana involves a water filtration system that makes only one in five gallons of water useful for irrigating the crops.
“That is concerning,” she said, noting the amount of wastewater that would be generated.
Loveland also noted Trinidad’s downtown main street now is lined with retail cannabis dispensaries.
That creates “concern for design issues,” she said, which would require attention to zoning considerations.
In addition, she said, “we would want to make sure we give them parameters” on building and storefront design.
District 1 Commissioner Ralph Moya said the city’s downtown would not be able to accommodate growing and processing facilities, and he suggested the city create an industrial zone elsewhere where larger-scale growing and processing facilities could be located.
Loveland said rezoning could invite legal action and suggested that applications for growing and processing facilities could be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Many possible locations in the city for cannabis-based businesses also are within 300 feet of churches and schools, which disqualifies businesses that sell liquor, City Manager Mark Martinez noted.
Large warehouses that could involve new construction likely would locate in Clovis if Tucumcari is too restrictive, Martinez said.
District 5 Commissioner Todd Duplantis added, “We could push people away. If we’re too restrictive, people won’t invest here.”
While the state has not announced whether distance rules would apply to cannabis businesses, Martinez said such regulations could hamper a new cannabis industry.
The location of churches and schools would “wipe out whole sections” of the city’s west side for cannabis businesses if the same distance rules apply, Martinez noted.
Leif Gray, another committee member, noted the rule would also affect locations on Historic Route 66 west of Jackson Street.
Loveland noted cannabis could attract other kinds of business to Tucumcari, for example, to provide tubing for irrigation and lighting used for indoor cultivation, as well as testing facilities for marijuana products.
Tucumcari’s access to I-40 and U.S. 54 could create opportunities to ship these products to other locations, she noted.
In the regular commission meeting, the commission renewed and expanded the purpose of its contract with Clinton Harden and Associates for lobbying the New Mexico Legislature. The contract will extend lobbying activity to interim committee meetings, which occur outside legislative session dates.
Kathy Ellis, a lobbyist with the Harden organization, told the commission that lobbying during the 2021 session was seriously hampered by limited access to the capitol due to COVID-19 restrictions, and legislators “had a lot on their plate,” she said.
The city failed to get approval for its top priority for capital outlay funding — repairs to wastewater lines on the city’s east side along Historic Route 66 — which could cause damage to the city’s wastewater treatment facility if not corrected, according to Martinez.
Ellis told the commission that state Sen. Pat Woods told her the wastewater system repairs could get priority in the 2022 legislature.
She said the city could seek another source of funding for the project, as well.
Martinez said city budgeting only allows the city to apply for 100% grants, since the city cannot pay the percentage of costs required by most grants. The city also cannot afford to float loans for such projects.
Moya said the city’s top priority for capital outlay funding should be resurfacing city streets. Moya again suggested the city contact state Sen. Pete Campos, whose 8th District includes a nearly uninhabited slice of property within Tucumcari city limits.
The commission acknowledged first reading of a new ordinance that would nullify clauses in the existing nuisance ordinance, including its entire “definitions” section that defines terms such as “dangerous building,” “deterioration,” “exposed to public view,” “fire hazard,” among many others.
Other proposed changes would cancel out language that states “it is unlawful to maintain or permit the existence of any dangerous building in the city or the failure to repair, remodel or renovate building so designated …” and for owners or occupants to permit buildings to be occupied while remaining “in a dangerous condition.”
The proposed changes would also eliminate “mesquite” from a list of defined nuisances.
First readings must be followed by publication of the new ordinance, then a public hearing and a commission vote for final approval or rejection at a later meeting.
In other action Thursday, the commission:
• Called for a special meeting for 3 p.m. Thursday to discuss budgetary matters. Moya said the city should consider hiring an assistant city manager and an additional grant writer, despite shortages in the city’s general fund.
Ralph Lopez, a project manager in the city’s Community Development Department who writes many of the grant applications, said acquiring grants is the easy part. The difficult part, he said is administering the grants to ensure funds are properly used for the purpose of the grant.
• Discussed seeking grants to cover overtime pay for police officers. Moya raised the subject after noting the police department had spent 50% of its annual salary allotment from the city’s general fund in one quarter because of overtime.
Martinez aid overtime pay has risen because the department was short on officers.
Rachelle Arias, the city’s finance director, told the commission the police department had not filed for grants that cover DWI checkpoints and child safety seat inspections since 2019. Martinez said the DWI, seat belt patrols and child safety seat grants allow overtime only for specific purposes.
• Approved an amended contract with Stantec Engineering for bid administration, construction management and project observation for the Hoover Tank project, which is renovating a city water tank located west of the city. The contract amendments total $296,255, excluding gross receipts taxes.
• Approved memoranda of understanding between the Tucumcari Senior Citizens Center and the city’s Head Start program and Tucumcari Elementary schools to operate Foster Grandparent programs in those facilities. The program matches children with special needs and senior volunteers for companionship and conversation.
• Approved the free use of the Tucumcari Convention Center for a dance sponsored by the local 4-H club during the Quay County Fair.
• Approved an agreement with Sun Vista Outdoor Advertising for three years. The agreement covers five billboards in Texas and New Mexico.