STARKS — Residents of the community that came to symbolize the marijuana legalization movement in Maine 20 years ago will vote by referendum Friday on a proposed ordinance that would ban retail marijuana sales and social clubs.

Voters also will be asked to approve a proclamation establishing Indigenous Peoples Day to replace the observance of Columbus Day in town.

Starks — home of the first Hempstock pro-pot festival in 1994 — will hold its Town Meeting beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday in the Starks Community Center on Anson Road.

Voting on two referendum questions and balloting for elected officials is scheduled from noon to 8 p.m. Friday at the same location. Joseph Hayden is seeking re-election to the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Assessors unopposed on the ballot. Town Treasurer Erin Norton also is unopposed for re-election.

If approved, the ordinance prohibiting retail marijuana establishments and retail marijuana social clubs would not restrict use of recreational marijuana as allowed by statewide referendum in November, but it would prohibit the retail or wholesale sale of marijuana in the town.

The proposed ordinance would not affect the lawful use, possession or conduct spelled out under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act.

The Planning Board is proposing the ordinance because residents at last year’s Town Meeting passed a moratorium, 62-28, that prevented marijuana facilities from setting up shop in Starks for 180 days.

Starks residents also voted against the legalization of recreational marijuana in the November election, 185-167.

“This is one of the more ironic things about life,” First Selectman Paul Frederick said. “We’re giving the community a chance to vote on it. This marijuana thing has split the town since its origin.”

Planners also said residents need to express their intent as to regulating retail and wholesale distribution of marijuana now, rather than later. It could be potentially difficult to impose such restrictions in the future after allowing residents to invest and develop facilities for the retail or wholesale cultivation of marijuana.

Another referendum question asks voters whether to adopt changes to the Plumbing and Septic System Permit Fee Ordinance.

As for the Indigenous Peoples Day proposal, Frederick said the question reflects a trend nationwide to recognize native people and “to downgrade Columbus as a hero.” He said it’s a symbolic proclamation and “an honorable thing to do” as a way to respect Native Americans.

Residents approved a budget of $521,106 for 2016. Frederick said that figure could increase by as much as $97,000 on Saturday.

The tax rate going into the Town Meeting is $19.50 for every $1,000 in property valuation. If everything passes as written Saturday, Frederick said, the town could be looking at an increase to $21 per thousand, or more.

Frederick said causes of anticipated spending increases on the town warrant Saturday include more interest in the town Fire Department, which has gone from three or four members to as many as 15 or 16. With the new members come more costs for training and equipment and repairs to the fire station itself, he said.

“There’s a cost with being better,” he said. “Success has a cost.”

Other spending proposals include $100,015 for general government, $20,000 for the community center plus a proposed $8,000 for a generator there, $30,500 for the Fire Department, $63,500 for summer roads and $55,000 for winter roads. Voters also will be asked to spend $31,109 for this year’s payment on the River Road bond and $40,000 for the capital improvement fund. There also is a proposal to take $48,194 from surplus to offset taxes.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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