100 marijuana plants grow in a warehouse in east Denver, March 3, 2014. (John Leyba, The Denver Post)

Boulder County gives initial OK to large-scale pot greenhouses

Boulder County has given initial approval to plans for a large-scale marijuana greenhouse operation off of Valmont Road, but the county commissioners could still choose to call up the plan for a public review.

The proposed operation at 3105 75th St., given initial approval by the county last week, would consist of four 4,000-square-foot greenhouses and one 5,040-square-foot warehouse on a 7.9-acre parcel of land near the corner of Valmont Road and North 75th Street.

According to application documents, each of the four greenhouses would house 175 plants.

The plan is now in a two-week call-up and comment period, in which the county will collect comments on the proposal. The commissioners have until Thursday to determine whether they want to call up the plan for a public hearing.

In their letter of approval, Boulder County staff said their initial concerns about the visibility of lighting coming from the greenhouses were “partially mitigated through the applicant’s proposed light deprivation system. The system uses opaque curtains to block the lights from the greenhouses from the neighboring parcels, prohibiting a ‘lantern effect.'”

The letter did say the site developers would have to plant trees to “help mitigate the visual impact of these large structures…The intent is not to completely hide the structure, but to break up the mass of the facade and soften the structure’s hard lines.”

Related: Boulder County farmers to pot greenhouses: “Not in my back yard”

Robert Perletz, the site planner for the operation, said his team is going over the county’s recommendations, but he believes the initial approval indicates the proposal addressed most of the major concerns that county staff may have had with the site.

“There may be some items that they may want us to address, but usually the staff is pretty comprehensive in writing recommendations,” Perletz said.

Neighborhood objections

But local farmers in the area have objected to the greenhouses because children often are given tours in the area.

Paul Cure of Cure Organic Farms said residents expected that the site would get initial approval, but he hopes the commissioners will call the plan up for a public hearing.

“I feel like our community has gotten stronger in our belief of what we want and don’t want in our neighborhood, and I hope that the county commissioners respect that and hear us out,” Cure said. “I feel like we have a strong case on our hands in regards to all the various issues that have come up.”

In addition to concerns about the grow being in a residential neighborhood, Cure said the community also has concerns about some of the names that have come up in connection with the operation.

Federal investigation

The planned greenhouses are connected to Laszlo Bagi, whose marijuana operation in northern Boulder County was raided by federal agents in November. Bagi has not been charged in that investigation.

The application was submitted by Pantera Properties LLC and lists Bagi’s contact information. Colorado Secretary of State records show Wendy Bagi is the agent for Pantera Properties.

Related: In the aftermath of the biggest federal raids on Colorado’s medical marijuana industry in November 2013, here’s what happened with one of the raid targets, Laszlo Bagi.

Bagi has declined to comment other than to say he is an investor in the property, but will not be involved in the marijuana operation at the site.

Bagi’s grow operation at 6859 North Foothills Highway was the subject of a raid in November by Drug Enforcement Administration and Boulder County sheriff’s officials, who seized $1 million in marijuana from the site. It was part of a series of raids across the Front Range in an ongoing Department of Justice investigation.

Online petition

An online petition protesting the grow has also been started on change.org and has garnered over 100 signatures.

“Hopefully we can relocate this and it’s a win-win,”Cure said. “They get the greenhouse but not in a place that harms the business and ecology and lifestyle of those already here.”

To view or comment on the proposal, residents can visit the application site.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com