by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — Acme Growers, a proposed two-acre marijuana growing operation in the Buffalo Ranch area received a reprieve on their expiring conditional use permit from the Huerfano County Commissioners on Tuesday.
The marijuana farm’s Keith Bouchard and project manager Larry Elliot appeared before the board of commissioners this week in an attempt to find a solution preventing them from having to restart the entire CUP process over again as their 2015 permit is set to expire this month. There has been no real construction at the site, nor do the operators have a proven legal water source in place. Bouchard told the commissioners they have received a permit from the state to drill a 2,000 foot deep well into the Dakota Aquifer, and that project could begin within two weeks. Acme Growers had received a letter from the county planning department notifying them the CUP was expiring, prompting their inclusion on the May 3 agenda.
“There was an internal miscommunication,” Bouchard told the commissioners in regard to the planning letter he just recently became aware of that makes the 2015 CUP null and void.
The highlighted CUP violations that prompted the letter included; no site construction within the first six months the permit was in effect and no proof of secured legal water. The county planning board had recommended the permit be rescinded.
“You can’t grow stuff in Huerfano County without water,” Commissioner Max Vezzani said. County planner Steve Channel said when Acme got their original permit, four other operations had applied at the same time and as of this week, two of them have their occupancy permits, a third will get theirs this week and the fourth should be issued within a month, noting the importance of due diligence on the part of the applicant. After discussion, Vezzani made a motion to place the current CUP in suspension until Dec. 31, 2016, at a cost to the applicant of $500 per month, non-refundable and instructed Bouchard to appear at the planning commission meeting (fourth Thursday of each month) to report on the operation’s progress. Even if the operation gets going sooner, they will have to pay the $500 per month through the end of the year. It was further mentioned no building permits will be issued by the county to Acme until planners have seen proof of secured legal water for the grow operation. In other business:
• Commissioners approved Condition Use Permit 16-005 to Paul Bossert of KSPK-TV for use of a small building to house a back up transmitter for the television station and erection of a 20’ broadcast tower on property located near the Rio Cucharas Inn.
• Approved Resolution 16-45, proclaiming May 15 – 21 as EMS Week in Huerfano County.
• Approved a temporary easement along a portion of CR 104 for tamarisk eradication.
• Approved fee waivers for two events at the Huerfano County Community Center; one for a religious health meeting June 25 – July 2 and the other requested by the county Republican party for the July 30 Lincoln Day Dinner. In addition, the commissioners approved an ‘open container permit application’ for a June 18 birthday party at the facility requested by Nancy Estrada.
• The commissioners appointed Huerfano County Administrator John Galusha to make the county vote to support bylaws changes at the upcoming San Isabel Electric Assn. members meeting later this month. “This is just a bylaws clean up measure,” said Commission Chairman Ray Garcia.
• The board voted to appoint Chairman Garcia as the Huerfano County Commission representative to the two-person district health department member appointment committee ( a position he will share with Las Animas County Commissioner Anthony Abeyta). Under state statutes the committee must approve appointments to the bi-county board of health.
• Approved Resolution 16-44 denoting Sunday, May 8th, 2016 Jerry Price Day in Huerfano County recognizing his four year – six month service in the US Navy.