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Noted: Medical marijuana avoids further regulation 

MMJ in the clear, for now

Following an extremely contentious meeting, City Council agreed to hold off on regulating the medical marijuana industry any further until a later date.

At the request of Vice Mayor Larry Small, the city attorney's office had drafted a resolution that would have made it illegal to operate a dispensary within 1,000 feet of a school or residential area. There was also talk of putting a moratorium on any new dispensaries.

Many members of the industry told Council they felt the sudden appearance of the resolution was unfair, especially since the industry had taken part in a Council-created citizens group that recently wrote a draft ordinance to regulate the industry. The process of writing an ordinance took three months, and it was expected that a lengthy public process would be undertaken before Council voted on that measure.

The newer resolution, which could have shut down some businesses, was written in a single evening at a city attorney's kitchen table.

"I don't understand why there was no notice on this," an industry attorney said. "I think that's very suspicious."

Small said the resolution was drafted after a slew of complaints from a North Academy Boulevard neighborhood where a new dispensary is scheduled to open.

In the end, Council decided to allow current enforcement methods to suffice until the draft ordinance is considered. — JAS

Costly errors at Memorial

City-owned Memorial Health System and its insurer have paid out $1.8 million in only three months, according to a recent legal report prepared for City Council.

The settlements resulted from deaths of three patients, two in 2008 and a third for which a date was not given. In the most costly case, one family was paid $1.375 million after a woman experienced respiratory arrest due to use of excessive medication during an elective procedure.

That many payouts in last year's fourth quarter was "unusual," Memorial spokesman Brian Newsome says in an e-mail.

"Legal settlements don't follow a predictable pattern in terms of resolution timing," he says. "Each of these cases was unique, and the short period of time surrounding the settlements was coincidental."

Memorial's insurer paid out most of the money. — PZ

Bible college plans grow

Where it started with talk of a 1,000-student campus (see "A Bible thumping," News, Nov. 12, 2009) Andrew Wommack Ministries is now seeking donors to help construct a $40 million Bible college campus that could accommodate 2,500 to 3,000 students in Woodland Park.

According to information posted on Wommack's Web site, the ministry wants to build a 200,000-square-foot facility, with groundbreaking to occur this summer (awmi.net/foundation_builders).

For the plans to go forward, the ministry still needs to go through a lengthy public process to get some unincorporated land annexed into the city, to get it all rezoned, and to acquire necessary permits.

Though that theoretically could be done in four months or so, Woodland Park Mayor Steve Randolph predicts a 2011 start to construction, at earliest. — AL

Council takes 300 guidance

In an effort to enact the voter-approved Issue 300, Colorado Springs City Council on Tuesday adopted an ordinance that allows city enterprises to continue sharing costs of certain services, such as payroll, fleet and auditing.

Issue 300 called for an eight-year phase-out of enterprise payments to the city and barred loans, gifts and subsidies between the city and its enterprises, which include golf courses, Colorado Springs Utilities and parking garages, among others.

Deputy City Attorney Wynetta Massey said 300's two provisions conflict, because, for example, if enterprises don't pay for shared services, the city would be subsidizing those enterprises — which 300 bars.

Anti-tax gadfly Douglas Bruce, author of 300, pounded Council over the implementation ordinance, threatening to sue.

Councilor Sean Paige, who with Tom Gallagher and Darryl Glenn opposed the ordinance, said the measure doesn't clarify the matter but instead makes it "more convoluted."

Mayor Lionel Rivera noted that 300 attempted to modify the City Charter, not just enact an ordinance, which causes some of the complications.

While Council already has abolished the unpopular Stormwater Enterprise, 300's chief target, and has taken steps to phase out Utilities' annual payments in lieu of taxes, the enabling ordinance adopted Tuesday will allow enterprises to continue to reimburse the city's general fund for shared services, among other things. — PZ

Armstrong trial delayed

It looks like the saga involving the Rev. Donald Armstrong and his old church isn't going to end just yet.

Armstrong, who was indicted in May 2009 on suspicion of embezzling more than $291,010 from Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish, was scheduled to face trial beginning Feb. 22, but the trial has been pushed back to Oct. 18 because of scheduling conflicts.

Armstrong faces 20 counts of theft for allegedly stealing $291,010 from church funds between 1999 and 2006 to pay his children's college expenses. — AL

CSU weapons ban passes

Starting Aug. 1, visitors to any Colorado State University campus will have to leave their guns, long-blade knives, bombs and other weapons at home.

That's the result of a controversial Feb. 23 decision by the CSU System Board of Governors implementing new weapons policies at all campuses.

Pueblo's policy will actually be somewhat less restrictive than the policy elsewhere in the system; it still allows stun guns and Tasers. People there who desire to carry a weapon for self-defense, or to store one in their vehicles, will need written permission from the campus president.

Opponents of the ban say they will challenge it in court, and Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden has voiced his disapproval. The Denver Post has quoted him as saying, "I am opposed to the ban, and I don't agree with the policy of trying to ram this down everyone's throat." — AL

Compiled by Anthony Lane, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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