Town boards discuss possible limits on retail marijuana establishments
By Theresa Knapp
On July 6, the Hopedale Select Board and Planning Board held a joint meeting to discuss ways the town can regulate marijuana establishments. Planning Board Chair Stephen Chaplin called the two-hour meeting “a spirited conversation.”
Many issues were discussed including setting a quota for retail marijuana establishments; streamlining the local permitting process, possibly changing the special permitting process to the Select Board; establishing a buffer zone around retail marijuana establishments; and setting a public hearing to discuss these issues.
Town Counsel Nicole Costanzo of KP Law said that, if the town bylaws do not expressly prohibit a type of marijuana use, then it must be allowed. “Under the statutes that regulate marijuana, uses are allowed unless expressly prohibited.”
Costanzo offered the following options:
Prohibit specific uses altogether; this requires a two-step process including a bylaw amendment and ballot question
Limit retail licenses to less than 20 percent of the town’s liquor store licenses (Hopedale has seven); this requires a bylaw amendment and ballot question (any limitation above 20 percent requires a bylaw amendment but not a ballot question)
Limit number of cultivation establishments; requires a bylaw amendment only
Adopt an overlay district to regulate where establishments will locate (different types of businesses could go in different overlay districts)
Change special permit granting to the Select Board which grants the Host Community Agreements
Expand the buffer zone around cultivation and manufacturing facilities
Costanzo said, “I do think that zoning bylaws regulating cultivation and product manufacturing are particularly important where you have concerns about odor and security.”
Planning Board Chair Stephen Chaplin asked Costanzo’s opinion on a citizen’s petition before the Planning Board that asks the town to adopt a 1,000-foot buffer zone between retail marijuana establishments.
“I have not seen that. We would have to look at those types of bylaws individually,” she said. “If this 1,000-foot buffer requirement would effectively prohibit other establishments from locating in the areas that you have, then the Attorney General, when she’s reviewing this, might look at this as an effective prohibition. You would need a ballot question in order to prohibit these establishments and likely that wouldn’t be something that she would approve.”
Costanzo suggested the town look at the areas in which the use is currently allowed and, “if you take that measurement based on what you have already in existence if that would actually prohibit other establishments from locating and, if so, it’s something that would likely be disapproved in my opinion.”
While most officials in attendance agreed some changes were necessary, Planning Board member Michael Costanza said the town has an established process that should be allowed to run its course.
Both boards agreed to continue the discussion and will meet again on August 3.