WEST GARDINER — Six months after four controversial ordinances were set aside, town residents will have a chance to weigh in on the new drafts at a public hearing Thursday, before the proposals go to a vote in early October.

The proposals involve restrictions to solar, self-storage and medical marijuana and pot cultivation operations. A fifth proposed ordinance on lot size is also to be considered, as is a funding request to fix the town’s loader and a review of changes to the general assistance ordinance.

The public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the town’s Highway Department garage at 318 Spears Corner Road. The special town meeting on these issues has been scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5.

It is standing-room only April 1 as residents await the start of the annual Town Meeting at the West Gardiner Fire Station. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Following a public hearing in March, selectmen opted to pass over proposals to regulate medical cannabis retail shops and cultivation facilities after a resident pointed out at a contentious public hearing that what was being considered locally was contrary to state medical cannabis laws.

At the April 1 Town Meeting, which drew more than 300 residents, selectmen passed over the bans on solar energy systems and self-service storage facilities. While they had been redrafted to ban those activities in West Gardiner and prohibit expansion of existing facilities, the proposals were also problematic because they required more work and input from experts in the subject matter, according to Greg Couture, chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

While select board members had hoped to have new drafts to put before voters in early June, they opted to extend the temporary ban, which was enacted in December 2022 on the four ordinances, for six more months.


The new versions reflect changes based on input by residents and a review of existing state law. At their core, the proposals represent the desire by some residents to slow changes that are coming to many communities across the state, including West Gardiner.

The Small-Scale Solar Energy Systems Ordinance proposes regulation of solar energy systems that encompass 3,000 square feet or less and/or generate 20 kilowatts of electricity or less. Those systems may be located on the ground or mounted on a roof. The ordinance also bans large-scale energy systems that have not been approved before the effective date of the ordinance.

“(Power) can’t be sold off the property,” Couture said. “It has to be for their own use.”

The proposed self-service storage facility ordinance bans any new facilities from being built and prohibits expansion of any existing facilities.

While cities and towns are limited in the restrictions they can impose on medical cannabis operations, there are some they can put in place. Couture said the proposed caregiver retail stores licensing ordinance would limit the number of retail operations to two. It would also outline what applicants must do to secure the town’s approval, including having all required state approvals and providing information about the business, its owners and the building it will occupy.

Streamside Remedies on Lewiston Road is now the only such operation in West Gardiner and would be required to seek town approval, if the ordinance is approved, Couture said.


Under state law, the town can impose no restriction on the number of cultivation facilities, but it can regulate how they are operated. West Gardiner’s proposal would require an application process, which includes providing plans for security and an odor and ventilation plan.

Couture said West Gardiner now has about eight marijuana cultivation facilities.

Voters had rejected a proposal to increase the town’s minimum lot size from about 1.3 acres, or about 60,000 square feet, to 3 acres, which was added to the warrant as the result of a petition of town residents. Selectmen are now bringing a different proposal to revise the minimum lot size.

Couture said the ordinance is being presented because someone built a house on a lot that was about 4 acres, which met the town’s lot size requirements. About 97% of the lot, however, was a road right of way.

Under the proposal, only up to 8,000 square feet of a 60,000-square-foot lot can be used for an easement or right of way. It also provides for how that rule would be applied in the event of a subdivision of a larger parcel.

Couture said voters are expected to see five proposed ordinances and the funding request at the special town meeting. By law, the town must hold a public hearing on changes proposed to general assistance, but enacting them is the responsibility of the selectmen and will not go to the special town meeting.

At the special town meeting, officials are expected to request authorization to spend more money. Since voters approved the town’s spending plan in April, the town’s loader has developed problems with its transmission that could cost $47,000 to replace so the equipment can be used this winter.

As an unforeseen expense, selectmen need authorization to spend the money for the repair from the town’s surplus funds.

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