GARDINER — With the launch of the adult-use marijuana market less than a month away, officials in Gardiner are considering whether to call a temporary halt to accepting applications for marijuana-related businesses within the city limits.

The first debate and public hearing have been scheduled for the City Council meeting Sept. 16.

The request comes as the city’s Ordinance Review Committee is taking a second look at the regulations enacted earlier this year — including licensing requirements for adult-use businesses — at the direction of the City Council.

That review was prompted by the number of applications being submitted in Gardiner for medical and adult-use business licenses.

If a moratorium were enacted, it would delay consideration of any new license applications for the term of the ban. It would not affect those submitted or approved before Sept. 2.

The City Council reached an agreement to consider the moratorium after a brief discussion at its Sept. 2 meeting.

At that meeting, Mayor Patricia Hart said moratoriums have been used in the past, pausing activity while city boards or committees worked to develop recommendations.

“This makes it clear for the businesses,” she said. “Businesses that are underway would continue.”

Debby Willis, chairperson of both the Ordinance Review Committee and the Planning Board, said she would appreciate the opportunity to look at what has been done to date.

The Ordinance Review Committee, at the direction of the City Council, brings recommendations for new ordinances and changes to existing ones to the elected officials for consideration.

Under the marijuana license application process that now exists, the Planning Board reviews those applications and sends its recommendations to the City Council for the final vote.

“I was a big part of creating our ordinances,” Willis said. “We looked at everything, and I thought we did a really good job. Now that we have looked at seven applications, I would appreciate the opportunity to go back and look at them again.”

The review is prompted by community members and groups, including the Gardiner Thrives Coalition, who have brought their concerns to the City Council about the number and visibility of cannabis-related businesses seeking to open in Gardiner’s downtown and how that will affect minors from Gardiner and surrounding towns.

“Are we allowing (businesses) in places we shouldn’t?” Willis said. “We don’t allow them near public or private schools, athletic fields or playgrounds. Should we limit them elsewhere?”

She noted that in the downtown neighborhood, cannabis businesses may not be closer than 200 feet from one another.

While medical marijuana stores have been allowed to open, October marks the start of recreational cannabis businesses in Maine.

On Tuesday, the Office of Marijuana Policy announced the first six fully licensed, adult-use marijuana businesses — two retailers, three cultivation operations and a testing business. One of the cultivation businesses, Room 5 LLC, is in Detroit. As of Thursday, a cultivation operation in Bangor had been added.

About three-dozen businesses are close to completing their eligibility requirements for adult-use licenses. Among them is Herbal Pathways, which has signed a lease at 35 Bridge St. The City Council approved its license in August.

Two more applicants — Eastern Retail Brokerage and The Healing Community MEDCo — went before the Planning Board on Tuesday.

As the City Council was considering whether to move ahead with a debate on the moratorium, At-large City Councilor Jon Ault said he was inclined to support a hands-off approach.

“But the amount of feedback I have gotten has stimulated some introspection and thinking on my part,” he said. “We haven’t had this amount of feedback since the mini goats controversy from several years ago.”

In 2012, city officials debated whether small farm animals should be allowed in residential areas in Gardiner.

He said on one hand, the city has seen greater demand for applications than officials had anticipated. On the other hand, he was relieved to see Gardiner regarded as a business-friendly place.

“The volume does speak to the fact we’re doing something right, even if we need to maybe reexamine how best to move forward,” he said. “The comments were eye-opening, and I appreciate them.”

District 4 City Councilor Marc Rines said he had heard from residents, but the comments seem to be one-sided.

“I encourage the community at large to reach out to me and to the rest of the councilors to get both sides of the opinion on this,” Rines said. “The more information we have, we can really get our finger on the real, true pulse of what this city needs and wants to do.”

The Gardiner City Council meets at 6 p.m. Wednesdays. Because of restrictions on public gatherings, city officials have been meeting using the Zoom videoconferencing platform and have aired the meetings on Facebook Live.

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