Town council takes first step to change process for liquor and marijuana licenses


By Derek Kutzer  | Staff Writer

At its July 20 meeting, the Pagosa Springs Town Council took its first steps toward changing the town’s municipal code regarding approval of liquor and marijuana licenses.

At a previous May 18 meeting, council members asked town staff if liquor and marijuana license approvals could be streamlined by allowing town staff to approve such applications administratively, rather than through the council’s public meeting process, as current municipal code requires.

Town staff explored this question with Town Attorney Bob Cole and put together Ordinance 997, which would change the municipal code to allow administrative decisions on some liquor and marijuana licenses, according to agenda documentation.

Ordinance 997 is structured in a way that would add section 3.1.5 to the municipal code and would amend sections and, according to agenda documentation. 

Town Clerk April Hessman, who briefed the council on the ordinance, explained that these changes to the code would allow administrative approval of license applications in certain instances, such as renewals of liquor and marijuana licenses, liquor permits for special events, permit transfers, premises modifications and house permits. 

However, she explained that the changes would not allow administrative approvals of new licenses. 

She noted that new marijuana and liquor licenses would still “require a public hearing, which includes posting the location, posting the license in the paper and allowing people the time to make public comment if they need to.”

Thus, she explained, new licenses would continue to come before the town council, but, since 2020, “we’ve only had nine new licenses between liquor and marijuana,” come before the council, commenting that just “a couple per year” shouldn’t be too burdensome for the council. 

Agenda documentation states that the ordinance “names the Town Manager or the Town Manager’s designee as the local licensing authority in the above application types and requires these applications be referred to the Police and Community Development Departments.”

It adds, “If any concerns are raised with granting the application by these departments or by the Town Manager or designee, the application will be referred to the Town Council for a hearing.”

The current process for approving or transferring licenses that are not new is to include them on the consent agenda of a town council meeting, which can be a burden to businesses and individuals who must wait for their application to get on the agenda at a town council meeting, according to documentation on the matter. 

Ordinance 997, if passed through first and second readings, would “remove these types of requests from the Town Council agenda and allow for faster processing of the applications, benefiting the businesses with quicker response from the Town and subsequently the State licensing division,” agenda documentation states. 

Mayor Shari Pierce thanked Hessman and town staff “for your work on this.”

Council member Gary Williams then motioned to approve the first reading of Ordinance 997, “authorizing administrative approval of certain liquor and marijuana licenses.”

The motion was seconded and was approved unanimously by the council.

The ordinance will become effective if it is also approved through final passage by the council at the second reading of the ordinance.