April 9, 2014 Updated: April 10, 2014 at 7:05 am
Bill Conkling moved one step closer Wednesday night to becoming the first person to open a recreational marijuana store in El Paso County.
The Manitou Springs Planning Commission unanimously approved a recommendation to grant a conditional use permit to Conkling to open a dual purpose marijuana dispensary at 141 Manitou Ave.
Conkling's application will now go before the Manitou Springs City Council for final approval.
Conkling, 50, already runs two medical marijuana dispensaries called Maggie's Farm, on South Nevada Avenue and East Fillmore Street in Colorado Springs as well as others in Canon City and Pueblo West.
Conkling spoke to the commission before the vote, saying he is "excited to have the opportunity to bring tax revenue to Manitou and support local jobs."
Conkling said his medical businesses contributed $217,000 in sales tax revenue in 2013.
Conkling also said that bringing his business to a vacant building near U.S 24 and Manitou Avenue will help rejuvenate the east end of town.
"It has been a vacant building in a run-down area long enough," he said.
Manitou planning director Wade Burkholder said the issue likely will go before the city council on May 6.
Conkling's architect, Doug Fullen of Way Architects of Colorado Springs, showed maps remodeling and landscaping plans that will provide at least 21 parking spots, an significant issue a town that constantly battles public parking issues.
The only hiccup came when commission Chairman Gil Price expressed concern with access from Manitou Avenue, especially on the store's opening day. The store would be located across from the off ramp on the east side of U.S 24 which is already a difficult intersection, Price said.
Other commissioners reassured the chairman that the biggest access problems would only occur shortly after the store opened. Commission member Mike Casey said customers would quickly learn the nuances of entering the parking lot.
Four people spoke in favor of Maggie's Farm during the public comment period. No one opposed approval of the permit.
The second medical marijuana licensee in Manitou has just begun the application process with the state, a requirement before bringing the process to Manitou Springs. Jim Bent, who oversees retail operations for Reserve1 at 2 Manitou Ave., said his bosses are "100 percent interested" in joining Conkling as recreational pot store owners.
"We're just working through the process," Bent said.
The Manitou city council voted 6-1 on Jan. 21 to legalize recreational marijuana sales. The council limited the number of stores in town to two.
Only medical dispensary licensees can apply before July 1 as outlined by state Constitutional Amendment 64.