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Gazette Premium Content Record turnout for Palmer Lake marijuana, mayoral votes

By Matt Steiner Updated: April 2, 2014 at 8:31 am

UPDATE

Palmer Lake have voted against the sale of recreational marijuana within the city limits by a 538 to 481 margin.

On April 8, residents in Larkspur will vote on the same measure.

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A record number of ballots were turned in Tuesday as Palmer Lake residents, town officials and curious residents throughout the Pikes Peak region waited to see whether the town of about 2,500 people would become the second El Paso County municipality to legalize recreational marijuana sales.

Despite the interest, for most people the results of the pivotal election would have to wait until Wednesday because counting wasn't expected to be complete until after midnight.

The polls closed promptly at 7 p.m. Tuesday without a rush of last-minute voters. The only people at the polling place at closing time were Town Clerk Tara Berreth, three election judges and a police officer.

Berreth predicted the final tally for the town's first-ever mail-in election wouldn't be complete until after midnight because judges had to count about 1,000 ballots by hand.

In addition to the marijuana question, the Palmer Lake ballots included votes for three mayoral candidates and nine candidates vying for five Town Council seats - quite different from 2012, when the town did not hold elections because no one ran.

If the marijuana measure is passed, it will make the town the second in El Paso County to allow the sale of recreational marijuana. Manitou Springs legalized recreational pot sales Jan. 21 with a 6-1 vote of the City Council. Manitou's planning commission will review the first license application April 9. If passed, it would then go before City Council in early May, a spokesman for the town's planning department said.

Voters in other Colorado cities, including Denver, approved the sale of recreational marijuana in April 2013 and pot stores opened for business in many places across the state Jan. 1. The closest recreational pot sellers to El Paso County are in Denver and Pueblo County.

In 2012, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, which made possession of up to an ounce of marijuana or six pot plants legal. It also allowed municipalities to opt in or out of selling recreational marijuana.

Late Tuesday, there was no indication of how Palmer Lake's vote would turn out.

Two hours before the polls closed, Dino Salvatori, owner of the Palmer Lake Wellness medical marijuana dispensary, said he had no idea which way the vote would go.

"I'm exactly on the fence," he said.

Salvatori said he wouldn't be surprised if it's settled with "single-digit votes." If the recreational marijuana measure passes, he plans to pursue a recreational license. Salvatori, who has owned his dispensary on the south edge of town since 2012, said he estimates Palmer Lake would take in about $1,000 a day in tax revenues from recreational marijuana sales. He said "that's a very conservative number."

"The town definitely needs some money," Salvatori said.

Five other towns in Colorado are also making decisions about recreational marijuana sales this spring. Collbran and Fruita had elections Tuesday night, but the results were unavailable. Larkspur's election will be held Tuesday, and Red Cliff and De Beque will vote on the issue this month.

Monument and Green Mountain Falls also held elections for mayor and town trustees Tuesday.

Monument voted in Rafael Dominguez as its new mayor. Dominguez, who makes the move from councilman to the town's top executive, beat Mary Russelavage by a vote of 597 to 209. Kelly Elliott garnered the most votes (555) for one of three trustee seats.

Jeffrey Kaiser and Stanley Gingrich also earned seats, with 550 and 542 votes, respectively.

Mayor Lorrie Worthey earned a second term in Green Mountain Falls, upending Jane Newberry by a vote of 143 to 118. David Cook (175 votes), Christopher Quinn (165) and Michael Butts (157) won the three open trustee seats in the town of about 700 in western El Paso County.

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