WATERVILLE — The Planning Board voted 4-3 on Monday to reject a request to rezone part of 475 Kennedy Memorial Drive so an adult-use marijuana store can open there.

Remington Street Properties LLC wants to buy the property from Tod and Jewel Currie. They and representatives from the real estate investment firm asked the board to recommend to the City Council that the front part of the property be rezoned from Commercial A to Commercial C to allow for the store.

The building on the property is the site of the former Pine Cone Furniture Shop next to Interstate 95.

City Planner Ann Beverage said the Planning Board does not have to follow specific standards in making a recommendation to the council, the only entity that has the authority to make zoning changes.

By state law, that zoning has to be consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, according to Beverage, who said last week Waterville’s comprehensive plan does not address marijuana shops.

Planning Board member Cathy Weeks on Monday opposed making a recommendation to the council to change the zone, saying the city’s marijuana ordinance committee spent a lot of time on zoning issues, the property has been in the current zone and it should not be changed.

“I think it goes totally against what the committee had established,” she said.

The Waterville Planning Board on Monday will consider rezoning part of 475 Kennedy Memorial Drive to allow an adult-use-marijuana store to open there once state rule regarding adult-use marijuana are issued. The former Pine Cone furniture shop at that address is seen near the Interstate 95 interchange on Thursday. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

Board member Bruce White said he understood Weeks’ concern, but the property was once in the Commercial C zone and all the businesses around it are in that zone.

“It seems that it would fit into the existing conditions,” he said.

Board Chairman Paul Lussier said zones are changed all the time in the city, and he thought what was muddying the issue for some people in the discussion was that it was about a marijuana store.

“As Planning Board members, we have to set aside our personal preferences or opinions, we have to look at what the ordinance is saying to us and, in this case, we’re not even looking at what the ordinance says — we’re here to make a recommendation,” Lussier said.

Planning Board member Mark Champagne made a motion to recommend the council keep the zoning as is, at Commercial A. Weeks and board members Tom Nale and Chris Rancourt voted in favor of his motion, while Lussier, White and board member Samantha Burdick rejected the motion.

Waterville Code Enforcement Officer Dan Bradstreet said last week the city is not now issuing local licenses for any adult-use marijuana businesses because the state has not issued rules for adult-use, a process that is expected to begin in the coming months.

His office can, however, issue licenses for medical-use marijuana. If a marijuana business does open at 475 Kennedy Memorial Drive, it would have to open as a medical marijuana store and then transition to adult-use marijuana, or the owners would have wait until the state issues adult-use marijuana rules to open the business, according to Bradstreet.

The City Council in April approved a marijuana ordinance for the city and since then, Bradstreet’s office has received only one request for a license and that was for a business that has not yet opened, he said. There are other marijuana stores in the city that opened before Dec. 25, 2018 — before the ordinance was approved — so they are grandfathered, he said.

“People are anticipating it will happen and we put this ordinance together to be ready for it when it does happen,” Bradstreet said.

He said the ordinance was drawn up by a committee, City Solicitor Bill Lee reviewed it and the City Council approved it in two votes.

The property at 475 Kennedy Memorial Drive once was zoned Commercial C, but was changed to Commercial A because the owners at the time wanted to build an addition to the building and the setback requirements were too stringent, according to Bradstreet. The addition was never built, he said.

“It’s really just switching back to what it originally was,” he said.

The marijuana ordinance the council approved in April regulates both adult-use and medical marijuana facilities in the city.

Councilors on March 19 took the 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 on a first vote when the proposal also included language about law enforcement officers conducting on-site inspections to ensure compliance. That language was removed from the final version of the ordinance, which then passed on a second and final vote, 6-1, with Coelho in support.

The ordinance, developed by the city’s Marijuana Study Committee and in effect since April, 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.

Marijuana facilities and operations may not operate within 500 feet of school property lines or religious institutions or activities, the ordinance says.

It prohibits all types of facilities from being in the Commercial A zone, which encompasses downtown.

 

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