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Mancos Town Board approves LivWell move to former Millwood Junction building

Marijuana dispensary LivWell received approval last week to move into the building that was formerly home to the Millwood Junction restaurant, above.

Marijuana dispensary LivWell received approval from the Mancos Board of Trustees Wednesday night to change location to the building that was formerly home to the Millwood Junction restaurant.

The empty Millwood Junction building, 101 W. Railroad Ave., sits at the town’s primary intersection of Colorado Highway 184 and U.S. Highway 160.

According to board members Wednesday night, LivWell met all legal and permitting requirements necessary to move in.

Mancos Town Administrator Heather Alvarez, in a report to the board, noted that the LivWell business will be 2,500 square feet or less at this time. The building is 3,140 square feet, so there is the opportunity for a future special exception request should the LivWell wish to increase the size of its business. Alvarez also noted that traffic flow concerns had been addressed by LivWell and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Mancos Marshal Justen Goodall reviewed the application and had no objection to the change.

LivWell intitially attempted a move to a different location in Mancos, but didn’t move forward with it because of “costly and time intensive mandatory development obligations.”

The company has allocated $800,000 for building and landscape improvements to Millwood as a gesture of good faith to the community.

Mancos Marshal Justen Goodall reviewed the application and had no objection to the change.

Of concern at Wednesday’s meeting was the business’ proximity to nearby Boyle Park. Municipal statute dictates that a marijuana dispensary cannot be within 500 feet of a park. The board approved LivWell’s location based on a measurement by Alvarez and Marshal Goodall, as well as a measurement from licensed surveyor SGM.

But many Mancos residents were unhappy with the idea a dispensary at such a central location of the town.

“People come from all over the world, and they go up to Mesa Verde,” said Mancos resident Diane Parrinello. “And they go up there to look at the ruins of Mesa Verde for a very specific reason. Because it’s history, and it has significance. They want to see it. The Millwood has that kind of significance to the people in this area. It has an energy to it.”

“The Millwood site is the focal point of our town. And I for one don’t want our town to have the focal point for everyone that comes through here to be a marijuana dispensary right on the corner,” said Marlis Delaronde. “To be honest, I would rather see the building razed and they put up a gas station.”

LivWell general counsel and minority owner Anna Hatch emphasized the company’s compliance with local ordinances and its ties to the community. “It has come to a point where we do need to find a new location for our store,” Hatch said. “We did not set out to find the most contentious location we could possibly have. We see an empty building at the main corner of your town. We’re not trying to go above and beyond and make this a destination that’s associated with marijuana, but marijuana is a part of your town, and we have been here. We fully intend to continue to be a good neighbor.”

Alvarez said she was unaware of any other potential businesses that were interested in buying the building, even after reaching out to Durango businesses and attempting to coordinate with the Region 9 Economic Development District to find suitors.

Trustee Janice Bryan argued that the marijuana industry boom in Colorado could not be ignored.

“It’s one of the fastest growing industries, and they’re going to be bringing jobs, Bryan said. “I think our town deserves to have something that brings in some income, jobs and clean industry.”

Other board members made it clear that they had a legal obligation to approve the change of location.

“It would actually be illegal of us to deny this tonight because they’ve met the sections of the code that they need to meet,” said Trustee Cindy Simpson.

“Our hands are tied. We have no choice to approve or face a lawsuit. It’s not a situation where peoples’ feeling are relevant to this,” said Trustee Ed Hallam.

The board voted 5-1 to approve the change of location. Hallam was the only dissenting vote, but only because he wanted further clarification on the accuracy of the surveys.

Medical marijuana businesses were approved in Mancos in 2010, and retail marijuana was approved in 2014.