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Area government planners talk about marijuana zoning

Chaves County commissioners and Roswell city councilors on the Roswell-Chaves County Extraterritorial Zoning Authority meet Tuesday night. From left are Richard Taylor, Margaret Kennard, T. Calder Ezzell Jr., Jeff Bilberry and Jeanine Corn Best. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Planners for the city of Roswell and Chaves County are asking their governing boards and commissions to think about how a legal recreational marijuana industry might impact zoning regulations and government ordinances should the New Mexico Legislature decide to authorize it this year.

New Mexico has had a legal medical marijuana industry since 2007, and five bills to regulate recreational marijuana were considered by the 2021 regular session of the New Mexico Legislature that ended Saturday.

House Bill 12 made it the furthest, passing the House of Representatives on Feb. 26 by a vote of 39 to 31 and receiving the approval of two Senate committees. But the entire Senate did not vote on it during the final days of the session.

Because no bill passed, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her staff have said that she intends to call a special session of the Legislature soon to work on the legislation.

Chaves County Planning and Zoning Director Louis Jaramillo recommended to the five members of the Roswell-Chaves County Extraterritorial Authority during its Tuesday night meeting that they familiarize themselves with House Bill 12 and consider what changes might need to be made to the zoning ordinances.

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The extraterritorial zone, or ETZ, covers properties in the county that also are within about 2 miles of the Roswell city limits and could be of interest to future city development. The Roswell-Chaves County ETZ Commission is a group of appointed people who decide applications for permits and make recommendations regarding ordinance changes. The ETZ Authority consists of elected officials from the county and city who meet as needed to hear appeals of cases from the ETZ Commission or to vote on the ETZ zoning rules and ordinances.

“We have to pay really close attention to what they do in Santa Fe and how they put this new recreational act together,” said Jaramillo. “We have to protect our residents — the ETZ and the city and even further out in the county where they are all grouped into subdivisions. We have to, because if we don’t, it will become a mess.”

Some members of the authority — with the current members being Chaves County Commissioners Richard Taylor, T. Calder Ezzell Jr. and Jeff Bilberry and Roswell City Councilors Margaret Kennard and Jeanine Corn Best — suggested that the county might want to consult with other counties as well as the New Mexico Counties Association to discuss ideas. Jaramillo mentioned that only 12 of the state’s 33 counties have adopted zoning ordinances.

Jaramillo and authority members said that there could be many concerns about where some cannabis growers and manufacturers would be located, not only to be consistent with prior zoning decisions that require medical marijuana operations be located at least 300 feet from schools, daycares, churches and parks, but because marijuana growing and the manufacturing of cannabis-derived products have led to fires and explosions in some cases. They also discussed the potential crime issues that could develop if black market sales develop.

During its meeting, the authority also approved a public meeting notice resolution and voted to select Ezzell as chairman and Best as vice-chair.

Recreational marijuana also was addressed by Kevin Maevers, the recently hired community development manager for the city of Roswell, during a municipal Planning and Zoning Commission workshop, also held Tuesday night.

He said that he has a great deal of experience working with the medical and recreational marijuana industries, from growing to distribution.

“I also have had a lot of experience in writing zoning and development codes in dealing with those,” Maevers said, “and some experience in dealing with the negative effects of some of the mistakes in some of our other states in the country.”

He said he is watching the legislative actions and plans to have in-depth discussions with the Planning and Zoning Commission about the topic in the future, including how to deal with the “bubble” that could occur when the industry first enters a market and then slows down as competitive pressures increase.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.