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City council increases recommended fees for cannabis projects

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Despite concerns the move might appear punitive to the industry, the Roswell City Council increased recommended fees for cannabis-related businesses by 20% in approving a proposed schedule of fees at its regular meeting Thursday night.

The amendment to increase the fees by 20% was made by Councilor Angela Moore and was approved by a vote of 6-3. Councilors Juan Oropesa, Judy Stubbs and Savino Sanchez voted against the increase. Councilor Daniel Lopez was absent.

The amended resolution containing the fee schedule then passed by a vote of 7-2, with Oropesa and Sanchez voting against it.

The resolution containing the fees is itself an amendment to the regulations the city council approved last month that established a new chapter of city code addressing cannabis use and development of cannabis businesses and events. Some aspects of the regulations were left reserved for future amendments so the city could put its basic regulations in place by Sept. 1, which is when the state began processing license applications for cannabis producers, micro businesses and medical cannabis producers.

“The proposed fee schedule will help to reasonably reimburse staff for the time, resources and the complexity that correspond with projects related to cannabis,” Community Development Director Kevin Maevers said.

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The fees include $850 for a pre-application review, $400 for a zone change application for an area less than 1 acre, $850 for conditional use permit applications, $250 each for a variety of technical studies review and $1,500 for a development agreement.

Responding to a question from Moore, Maevers said he largely drew on his experience in another state in cannabis development, determining the amount of time it would take a mid-level staff member to review cannabis projects and multiplying that by a rate of $50 an hour to cover staff wages and other costs. The city has already expended money in forming regulations, he said. The New Mexico Cannabis Regulation Act was signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in April, with parts of it going into effect June 29.

“Up to this point, we have had months and months of money going out to develop all these ordinances and to develop all these requirements. We are still going to have a significant amount of money going out. We have to start recouping some of those costs as projects come on board,” Maevers said.

Moore replied she thought the fees were low, however, for a new industry for the city.

“I was hoping we’d be wanting them not to want to do it,” she said.

Maevers said the fees were “fairly reasonable” compared to other states that have legalized cannabis.

“That was my point, that they are incredibly reasonable. I don’t want them to be reasonable. I want them to be beyond comfortable,” she said.

In discussing the amendment to increase the fees by 20%, several other councilors pointed out actions cannot be taken that would be punitive to the cannabis industry. Under the state law, local governments can adopt only “time, place and manner” regulations for cannabis.

Maevers said he believed a 20% increase would be reasonable.

Oropesa said he was concerned the 20% increase might appear the city is targeting the cannabis industry, something that he said was advised against in the previous week’s annual conference of the New Mexico Municipal League.

He repeated a point made earlier by Maevers that the fees can be revisited and revised at any time.

“I would rather start with the numbers that we have here and see how they are working, and, perhaps three to four months down the road, it may be that we can come back and look at it,” he said.

Councilor Jacob Roebuck spoke in favor of the increase.

“I don’t have a lot of faith that the cannabis industry is going to be a net positive for our city financially or otherwise. So while we certainly don’t want to be punitive, I also don’t want to accidentally cut us short and put fees out there where I am now having taxpayers effectively supplement the cost of those people doing business,” he said.

Moore later in the discussion said she didn’t propose the amendment to target the industry, but to address the uncertainty the city is facing.

“It’s not because of who they are. It’s because it’s new; it’s because it’s different. This is something we’ve never done before, so, of course, the fees are not going to be the same as a beauty supply. It’s not because of who they are,” she said.

The city council also voted 9-0 to advertise and schedule a public hearing and vote on another ordinance to amend the cannabis code. The resolution would add procedures for the pre-application review to the city code. The public hearing will be conducted at the council’s October meeting.

In other business, the city council approved several action items by votes of 9-0:

• A purchase order for $744,007 with Dustrol Inc. of Pueblo, Colorado, for hot recycle pavement recycling maintenance that includes portions of West Eighth, North Washington, North Richardson, South Lea Avenue, South Garden Avenue and South Virginia Avenue;

• Issuing a request for proposals to expand the engineering pool to include more contractors and also to include architectural, planning, survey, engineering, landscape architectural and GIS services;

• Awarding a pavement rehabilitation project to Constructors Inc. of Carlsbad for $667,265 for Washington Avenue from McGaffey to Alameda streets and for Garden Avenue from Second to Cherry streets;

• Awarding construction of a water line to Mountain View Middle School to White Cloud Pipeline of Roswell for $587,902, with the Roswell Independent School District agreeing to reimburse the city for the project;

• The mayor’s recommendation of Becky Robertson to the Parks and Recreation Commission to complete a term ending March 31, 2024, that was vacated by the resignation of Megan Patterson;

• A new lease with Roswell Vegetable Farms Inc. for the Allison Farm property for annual rent that starts at $65,609 on Jan. 1, 2022;

• An amendment to professional services for the Waste Water Plant’s dewatering facility to HDR of Albuquerque, for $496,225;

• Augmentation services of $100,000 for the engineering department to contract for a project manager to oversee several projects with the New Mexico Department of Transportation;

• The purchases of a dump truck for $181,191 and Toro mower at $111,277 for the Roswell Air Center, and five new pickups for the Water Production Department for $151,885;

• Awarding rooftop ductwork renovation at the Roswell Museum and Art Center to RoofCare of Carlsbad for $97,191.

• Using $250,000 to purchase and equip police vehicles. The amount is budgeted, but the funds will be subject to approval by the city manager rather than the city council to speed up the purchase process. Because of supply and demand, dealers require a purchase order before holding vehicles for the city.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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