WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday voted 6-0 to extend a plastic bag ban launch from April 22 to Sept. 1 to allow time for a city board to hear an appeal about the Nov. 6 vote to approve the ban.

Councilors also took a final vote to adopt a marijuana ordinance as recommended by the city’s Marijuana Study Committee, but they made some amendments to the proposal.

The bag issue vote was 6-0. Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, was absent from the meeting.

City Solicitor Willam A. Lee III suggested recently that councilors could pass an amendment to the bag ban ordinance that would delay its implementation from the designated April 22 date until September, after the voting issue is expected to have been resolved. Such an amendment requires two votes. The council probably will take a second vote April 16.

Residents Cathy and Jonathan Weeks, as well as Shaun Caron, are asking the city’s Voter Registration Appeals Board to look at 75 voters who cast ballots on the bag ban issue in the Nov. 6 election. That board is planning to schedule hearings, possibly to start as early as late April, with those 75 voters.

The appeal by the Weekses and Caron says they suspect the challenged voters swore an oath of residency and submitted no other proof of residency to confirm the validity of their oath. They say that oath is a statement of intention that by its definition does not meet the standard of proof required by law and requires additional evidence that the voters established residency.

The challengers initially took the issue to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which dismissed the case and determined the ballots no longer are challenged because the opponents failed to file paperwork requested by the court.

Todd Martin, who initiated the bag ban, stood before the council Tuesday to say he supports moving the launch to Sept. 1.

Meanwhile, a marijuana ordinance the council approved Tuesday will regulate adult use and medical marijuana facilities in the city.

Councilors on March 19 took a first vote to adopt the ordinance, following a discussion about where the facilities may be located and how the rules regulating them would be enforced.

The council voted 5-2, with councilors Phil Bofia, R-Ward 2, and Jay Coelho, D-Ward 5, opposing the ordinance adoption.

The ordinance, developed by the city’s Marijuana Study Committee, says the terms of the ordinance shall have the same definition as the state’s law regulating medical and adult use marijuana. Waterville’s ordinance requires anyone wanting to establish, operate or maintain an adult use or medical marijuana facility to apply for and receive a permit from the city; but before that, he or she must obtain conditional approval from the state.

The original version of the proposed ordinance said law enforcement officers may inspect facilities at any reasonable time to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and conditions attached to license approvals. But the council on Tuesday made an amendment to say police may not do so with  medical marijuana facilities, as there are privacy laws associated with such facilities and medical marijuana patients. Law enforcement officials would need to have a reason to request admission to inspect those facilities, according to Dan Bradstreet, director of the city’s code enforcement office.

Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, a member of the marijuana committee, noted that the committee wanted to clarify that law enforcement officials will be able to investigate complaints and concerns about reported misconduct. She also said the committee wanted to leave open the possibility of amending the ordinance in the future. She said members even discussed the possibility of law enforcement officers receiving training on how to inspect grow sites. She had said earlier that the committee discussed a reported problem with agricultural inspections of grow sites causing damage to crops.

Councilors approved another amendment proposed by Bofia that says the general industrial zone located east of Front Street will be exempt —  that marijuana growing, distribution and manufacturing facilities would be prohibited in that area.

Marijuana facilities and operations may not be operated within 500 feet of school property lines or religious institutions or activities, the proposed ordinance says. It prohibits all types of facilities from being in the Commercial-A and Downtown Industrial zones, an area that some people designate as the downtown area, according to Bradstreet.

 

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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