MANCHESTER — Residents approved a moratorium Thursday banning any new recreational or medical marijuana storefronts from town at Town Meeting.

E. Patrick Gilbert, town manager, said the moratorium will not affect medical marijuana businesses already operating in Manchester, of which there is at least one.

The moratorium will ban the operation and licensing of any new retail or medical marijuana establishments for 180 days.

Gilbert said the moratorium is meant to give town officials time to work on regulations of marijuana storefronts. He said the town probably will consider capping the number of marijuana-related storefronts, though he said he wasn’t sure at how many they might be capped.

“This is so we can have time,” Gilbert said of the moratorium and potential cap on the number of such storefronts. “So we don’t get this crazy proliferation of marijuana-related businesses.”

Residents also voted in favor of changes proposed to the land use ordinance to increase the distance recreational marijuana businesses are required to locate away from some other entities. Specifically, it would increase the required setback for such businesses from schools from 1,000 feet to 1,200 feet, from churches from 750 feet to 1,200 feet, and from parks and playgrounds from 1,000 feet to 1,200 feet. The changes would be added to marijuana ordinances adopted at last year’s Town Meeting.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Maine since 1999.

Voters statewide legalized the possession of recreational marijuana by adults in November 2016, but the state has yet to establish rules for the retail sale of marijuana.

Most other warrant articles at Thursday’s meeting provided funding for town operation for the year.

Resident Patricia Levine, speaking about a warrant article providing $17,000 for recreational facility maintenance, complained that the town’s former summer recreation program has been dropped from the budget. She suggested using the savings from dropping the program to provide money for Manchester children to join summer recreation programs in other area towns.

“That program, though it became financially heavy, supports our children here,” she said. “What I see is a community that is not supporting its children.”

Selectmen Doug Ide responded that the once-robust program, which his own children attended, has dwindled in recent years and, in its last year, had only 11 children taking part. He said the program was expensive and unfeasible to maintain. He said the town looked into working with neighboring communities to share a summer recreation program but found no interest in doing so.

The approximately 35 residents at Thursday’s Town Meeting approved all funding articles related to the $1.87 million town budget.

Gilbert said the budget is up about $25,000, or 1 percent, over the current year’s budget.

The budget items included an article providing $704,000 to maintain town roads, with $387,000 of that for summer road maintenance and $317,000 for winter road plowing, sanding and salting.

Gilbert said most of Manchester’s paved roads are looking good. He said in the coming year the Road Committee plans to give more attention to the town’s dirt roads, and a big project over the next couple of years will be improving Summerhaven Road, which once was a road serving mainly gravel pits alongside of it but now is getting increasing use as a way to get to the growing north Augusta retail and office area.

“More Manchester people are traveling it now, getting to north Augusta,” Gilbert said. “I think it has grown up, from a pit road to a well-traveled road. So we will work on that to build it up and get it resurfaced to make it a better thoroughfare.”

Manchester’s share of the Regional School Unit 38 budget is up about $151,000, and the town’s share of the Kennebec County budget is up about $18,000, resulting in a total projected increase in spending for the coming year of $195,000.

The current tax rate is $16.90 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. Gilbert said the new tax rate can’t be determined until the town’s total property valuation is known.

Voters agreed to discontinue a roughly 1,000-foot section in the middle of Cottle Road, between Summerhaven and Prescott roads. Gilbert said the road is in such poor condition it is nearly impassible, and some people have been dumping items there, so town officials want to close it for safety reasons.

In secret-ballot voting at the polls Tuesday, Manchester voters approved a ban on plastic bags in retail stores, by a vote of 340-234.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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