Paige Costa, a 2020 graduate of Thomas College, is the co-owner and co-founder of North Star Apothecary in Fairfield. The Fairfield council approved zoning changes that put medical marijuana businesses in the same category as adult use marijuana businesses at their Wednesday meeting. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file Buy this Photo

FAIRFIELD — The town council approved a change in zoning for medical marijuana dispensaries and reviewed the results of a waterfront development survey at a regular meeting Wednesday. 

The council adjusted zoning ordinances at the meeting. The council held a public hearing for and then approved an amendment to the Land Use Map to extend the commercial use zone along U.S. Route 201.  

It held another hearing and then approved an amendment including medical marijuana dispensaries in the same section of the Land Use ordinance as recreational, adult use marijuana facilities. Previously, medical marijuana dispensaries were not classified and zoned in the same way as recreational marijuana dispensaries. 

Medical dispensaries were previously classified and regulated within a group known as controlled substance facilities, which includes things such as a methadone clinic. Controlled substance use facilities are zoned for areas where recreational marijuana dispensaries are not allowed, including the Fairfield Main Street area. 

Hannah King, an attorney at Drummond Woodsum and head of the firm’s regulated substances practice, represents Cannabis Cured, which operates an adult use marijuana business in Fairfield. King submitted the request for this change on Cannabis Cured’s behalf. 

“Medical marijuana dispensaries, from a land use perspective, are much more similar to your adult use marijuana businesses — which also cultivate, manufacture and sell marijuana — than to, for example, a methadone clinic,” King said. 

This hadn’t been an issue before because the state capped how many dispensary licenses there could be, but it will be lifting that cap in the near future. In order to prevent new dispensaries where the council does not want them, medical dispensaries have been classified to be the same as recreational ones, with the zoning approvals to match.  

It also means that medical marijuana dispensaries will be required to meet the same performance criteria as adult use dispensaries, for things like odor mitigation and disposal of marijuana waste. 

“For me, when I look at the draft, it’s just protecting us and it’s making sure the terminology is going to be fair to the town and fair to the people who want to bring, maybe, a business to Fairfield,” said Councilor Stephanie Thibodeau 

To further match that adjustment, the council updated the fee schedule to include a $5,000 fee for medical marijuana dispensaries and a $175 fee per application plus the cost of public hearings and postage for a medical marijuana dispensary conditional use permit. 

Garvan Donegan, director of planning and economic development for the Central Maine Growth Council, gave a presentation to the council on the recently completed waterfront survey.  

The survey received 116 responses, mainly from residents but also from business owners and visitors to the area. The survey focused on general waterfront access in Fairfield and the development of Mill Island Park.  

The goal of the survey was to understand community interest in waterfront development, and to create data that can be used in proposals and grant applications in the future, as well as guide town decisions. 

“There were really three main objectives in developing this survey instrument and deploying it: Number one was to help coalesce and build out the committee’s priorities, get scoping on projects of interest and really understand the community lens,” Donegan said. 

Overall, the survey found that people want more access to the waterfront. Many said they would be interested in a concert venue at Mill Island Park. There was also interest in expanded walking and biking paths and playground equipment that would fit into natural landscaping.

There were several public announcements made at the meeting including that there will be a public hearing for the annual town budget at the next council meeting May 12 at 6:30 p.m. It will be held in a hybrid format, over Zoom and at the Fairfield Community Center.  

The annual spring cleanup is scheduled from May 17 to May 21, fourth quarter property taxes are due May 12 and the city will hold an election June 8 on the annual town budget, school board members and the Maine School Administrative District 49 budget. 

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