The Cortez City Council denied a settlement recommendation with NuVue Pharma LLC, meaning litigation will continue between the city and the marijuana company.
The recommendation comes after NuVue sued the city for denying its application to open on the east side of Cortez.
At a regular meeting Tuesday night, City Attorney Mike Green put forward a recommendation the city’s attorneys had been working on.
“We are asking authority from council to settle the matter as was recommended,” Green said. The recommendation’s terms had been discussed during an executive session before the meeting, he said, but he didn’t say what they were during the public part of the meeting.
Councilors unanimously denied the recommendation but did not further explain their vote. Green declined to specify the recommendation’s terms.
NuVue Pharma LLC is a Pueblo-based company that applied to open a marijuana dispensary in Cortez last summer. The company sought to set up shop at 503 Patton St., across U.S. Highway 160 from Denny Park. NuVue’s proposed retail marijuana license was denied at the council’s Sept. 11, 2018, meeting.
The dispensary met “distance requirements” set by the city and state, and company’s owner, Dr. Malik Hasan, passed a background check, according to the Sept. 11 meeting minutes.
By law, marijuana shops must be located at least 1,500 feet from a school, day-care center or other dispensary.
However, several neighbors and community members opposed the dispensary, voicing concerns both in letters to the city and at the Sept. 11 public hearing. Many opponents said Cortez already has too many marijuana shops.
“We are highly against this business,” wrote Paul and Sue McCall in a letter to the City Council. “Our home is on Patton Street and (we) are concerned with safety for children, pets, our property and ourselves. This town has more than enough marijuana shops. This type of business will drop our property value and bring in high traffic volume.”
The council voted unanimously to deny the application.
The issue was brought forward again at a public hearing on Oct. 9, 2018, when the council once more denied the application. At that meeting, Councilor Jill Carlson clarified the previous motion to include three factors for denial the council is allowed to consider: reasonable requirements of the neighborhood, desires of the adult inhabitants, and the character of the applicant.
Mayor Karen Sheek said NuVue’s request was denied because of its proposed location, noting that most other marijuana dispensaries are in a business sector.
On Nov. 8, 2018, NuVue Pharma filed a complaint for judicial review in the 22nd Judicial Court.
The complaint alleges that council exercised “arbitrary and capricious abuse of discretion” in their denial, further alleging that the residents opposing the motion did not live close enough to the proposed location to be directly affected, and that their concerns were ungrounded.
“Four out of the six submitted letters were from sources miles from the neighborhood, and the two neighborhood letters contained inadmissible marijuana critique and speculative fear,” the complaint alleges.
NuVue’s team also compared the situation to that of other marijuana shops in Cortez, such as Durango Organics and Medicine Man, two Main Street dispensaries with neighborhoods nearby.
This week, councilors discussed the ongoing litigation during an executive session preceding their regular meeting, before Green brought it up for a vote during the meeting itself.
After councilors denied the existing settlement recommendation, Green asked council for approval to continue negotiations with NuVue. The council unanimously approved the motion.