Gardiner officials are poised to vote on granting a business license to a medical marijuana retailer when the City Council meets Wednesday, but a group of residents is seeking a temporary ban on approving more business licenses for cannabis-related businesses.

Since August, a number of city residents and the Gardiner Area Thrives coalition have been raising concerns over the number of cannabis-related businesses proposing to open in Gardiner and where they are allowed to open.

On Wednesday, the City Council is expected to take up the question of imposing a moratorium at the request of the Ordinance Review Committee, which has been tasked with reviewing the city’s regulations on marijuana enterprises.

“As things continue to change, it’s hard for them to know what to recommend,” Gardiner Mayor Patricia Hart said Monday.

At its Aug. 5 meeting, the City Council had directed the Ordinance Review Committee to review the marijuana-related changes to Gardiner’s land-use ordinance that were approved earlier this year.

While Gardiner officials knew that the adult-use marketplace would be launching sometime this year and put in place a regulatory process, they could not have necessarily predicted the demand for retail space that would emerge in the city.

At that point, more than a half-dozen businesses were in the process of seeking approval to open retail operations in Gardiner.

“It was just the perfect storm of available space (in Gardiner) and limited space elsewhere,” Hart said.

Coupled with that is the number of neighboring communities that have opted not to allow cannabis-related businesses or that have already imposed some limits.

“We didn’t factor in the ramifications of that,” she said.

Hart said any business that has currently started the process for approval would not be affected by a moratorium if the City Council chooses to enact one.

“The landlords that have signed leases with these folks should know their tenants can continue the process of opening up their shops,” she said. “We can’t interrupt that with a moratorium.”

When Maine voters decided in 2016 by a narrow margin to legalize marijuana in a referendum vote, the majority of Gardiner voters didn’t favor it. The vote was 1,470 for to 1,615 against.

Even so, city committees — from the Marijuana Task Force created in 2017 to the city’s Ordinance Review Committee — have helped shape the city’s approach to whether to allow such enterprises and where they may go inside city limits through their recommendations to the City Council.

In March, the City Council approved changes to Gardiner’s land-use ordinance that outlined where commercial cannabis enterprises may operate in the city and a requirement for annual licensing. In Gardiner’s downtown neighborhood marijuana businesses can be no closer to one another than 200 feet.

All of those meetings have been open to the public.

Now, nearly four years after that referendum vote, the adult-use market is expected to open Oct. 9, with the first active licenses for businesses in that sector expected to be issued on Sept. 8.

Before they discuss the requested moratorium, the City Council will conduct public hearings, decide on proposed amendments to the city’s Marijuana Establishment Licensing Ordinance and granting a license to the Bud Bar to open a medical retail marijuana dispensary at 325 Water St.

The proposed changes to the ordinance would remove the fees from the ordinance — and include them on the city’s fee schedule — and a provision that would cap the fees paid for multiple facilities on the same lot.

The Bud Bar is the latest marijuana enterprise to seek a business license in Gardiner. The Planning Board has approved Monica Langelier’s application for a medical marijuana/dispensary license and it now goes to the City Council for review.

When the council met Aug. 5, it approved a license for Herbal Pathways at 35 Bridge St., and it also asked the Ordinance Review Committee to review what other communities are doing and develop recommendations for placing limits on cannabis enterprises in Gardiner.

The City Council meets at 6 p.m.  Wednesday via Zoom. The meetings are simultaneously carried on Facebook Live on the city’s Facebook page.

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