FARMINGTON — Town officials are looking at tweaking a proposed marijuana ordinance after hearing feedback from residents Tuesday night, including concerns about marijuana-related businesses downtown.

The proposed ordinance, which will go before voters at Town Meeting in March, seeks to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana, define where such facilities can be located and set up a municipal permitting process.

During a public hearing lasting about an hour, a handful of people spoke both for and against the ordinance as written.

Among them were Paul Mills, vice president of the Farmington Downtown Association, who said the group opposes the operation of marijuana-related businesses downtown, with the possible exception of medical marijuana stores that would be grandfathered in.

“I just assume it stay the way it is if we can at all do that,” said Craig Jordan, who said he owns property downtown. “There’s plenty of chances for sales in the perimeters.”

Some medical marijuana business owners also spoke Tuesday and said officials should take into consideration that the market for medical marijuana could decline now that adult-use, or recreational, marijuana is legal.

“I don’t think you should look at it like a liquor license,” said George Purvis, owner of Caniba Naturals. “With medical especially, it’s medical. You’re looking at giving someone health care. It should be treated more like chamomile than liquor. I don’t think you want to limit the amount of medical or health care practices in your town. Alternative medicine is pretty much medicine.”

Luke Sirois, who owns Narrow Gauge Botanicals, said he worked with the town on developing the ordinance and thinks it is fair. “I think it’s very reasonable,” he said. “I think it’s a good start.”

The ordinance as written puts in place limits on the number of marijuana-related businesses that can be permitted. The limits are: seven stores, including four adult-use, or recreational, stores and three medical marijuana stores; seven cultivation facilities; five manufacturing facilities and two testing facilities.

Application costs for stores would be $1,250, and $300 to $1,250 for manufacturing facilities. The cost of permits for cultivation facilities could range up to $15,000, depending on the size of the facility and number of plants.

Where facilities can operate will exclude downtown residential and other residential areas with the exception of areas zoned “residential/ light commercial,” which includes more rural areas such as the arterial highways north and west of the town center and the Strong and Town Farm roads.

After hearing feedback Tuesday, officials also said they plan to revise the ordinance so marijuana stores, manufacturing and testing facilities cannot operate in the downtown business district, with the exception of medical stores that might be grandfathered in.

In addition, facilities would not be allowed to operate within 1,000 feet of a school or within 500 feet of the property line of University of Maine at Farmington property or Franklin Memorial Hospital property, property used for religious worship or religious activities, licensed day cares or municipal “safe zones.”

In other news Tuesday, the board approved a construction agreement for the removal of the Walton’s Mill Dam on Temple Stream, a $1.2 million project approved by voters last November, and decided to add an item to the Town Meeting warrant asking residents if they support the New England Clean Energy Connect project.

Town Manager Richard Davis said an item about the NECEC project, a 145-mile transmission line through western Maine being proposed by Central Maine Power, was brought to him by a handful of residents who asked if a vote could be taken to gauge support.

Selectman Scott Landry, who has been part of ongoing negotiations with CMP for a benefits package for Maine, said while there is no harm in allowing residents to vote on a nonbinding resolution on the matter, he wasn’t sure if it would achieve anything.

He also said the negotiations are going well and currently Maine stands to get over $250 million in benefits from the company.

“We have managed to stir it up enough that we’re in line to get something,” Landry said. He said economic development, funding for scholarships at the University of Maine and access to broadband internet are all part of the current proposal.

The board voted 3-0, with Landry abstaining and Selectman Michael Fogg absent, to add the item to the town meeting warrant.

According to the Walton’s Mill Dam agreement, replacement of culverts on Cummings Hill Road and Clover Mill Road are anticipated to take place in the summer of 2020 pending federal, state and local permits.

Removal of the dam and upgrades to Walton’s Mill Dam Park then would occur in 2021 or 2022.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation, which is paying for the project, will be providing regular updates to the town manager and Conservation Commission and will attend at least one selectmen’s meeting each year to update the town, according to the agreement.

 

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected] 

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.