A Closer Look at Rochester’s Amendments

Recently, the Rochester Planning Board voted favorably in support of six bylaw amendments that will be voted on at Town Meeting on November 25.

Amendment 1: Would restructure a bylaw that has regulatory language that allows for a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center to set up shop in town (see below).

Amendment 2: Would add a table to the town’s bylaws that will help applicants and town administrators to delineate between different types of structures more easily.

Amendment 3: Would change language in the town’s bylaws regarding the regulations surrounding farm stands and roadside stands within the town.

The definition for a “Roadside Stand” now reads as “an accessory structure for the sale of articles grown or produced in the Town of Rochester,” and the definition for a “Farm Stand” added language that states it’s greater than 80 square feet in floor area.

According to the Board, there was some confusion as to the regulation of farm stands. The current law states that a stand cannot sell more than 25 percent of its sales from out-of-state products. The changes specifically take the word “volume” out of the bylaw, and would use a dollar-based percentage as the only way to measure the percentage of sales. Basically, it would just simplify the way they keep track of how much they sell by using money instead of volume sold.

If someone were to sell more than a 25 percent worth of their revenue from out-of-state products, they would no longer qualify as a farm stand.

“The goal is to eliminate things that would be ambiguous [based on the definition],” said Ben Bailey of the Board.

Planning Chairman Arnold Johnson said that he hoped the change would help promote local agriculture within the town.

Amendment 4: Would clean up language involved in section of bylaws regarding Site Plan Review Applications and Site Plan Review Fees. Also allows Rochester the ability to charge applicants for administrative staff time.

Amendment 5: Would clean up language involving the filing of Site Plan Approval Application. Also adds section regarding incomplete applications to protect against potential litigation involving denied applicants.

Amendment 6: Fixes language mistakenly left out of prior year’s flood plain map. “This particular article will correct that problem,” said Laurell Farinon, the town’s Conservation Agent. “This language was erroneously deleted. It’s exactly the same as it was [initially].”

While some Massachusetts cities and towns have chosen to put the medical marijuana issue on the back burner, it seems that Rochester is planning for the inevitable future of its presence within the state.

“In this state, we cannot, as a town, ban them,” Johnson said. “We can take a proactive stance as to where they can be located and set some reasonable parameters on them.”

The Board initially proposed a moratorium on potential marijuana-related businesses in town when the vote to legalize it medicinally went through last year, but as more legislation came out from the state, the Board decided to conform to their recommendations.

Johnson said the Planning Board and the town of Rochester would borrow literature from zoning bylaws for the adult entertainment district in town, which would limit them to industrially zoned locations, of which there are few in Rochester.

“This is where our board feels it would have the least amount of impact within the town,” Johnson said. “There is land out there that’s undeveloped. It’s kind of on the outskirts of town, so you’re not bringing it into the town. In that particular area, if the bylaw gets adopted at town meeting, the applicant would have a use by right there.”

Johnson added that this is not something the group is too familiar with and that they’ll continue to take the process step by step as to getting the bylaws implemented correctly.

Coinciding with the news that Rochester would be going forward with the bylaw amendments was news that C.A.L.M. (Center for Alternative Life Medicine) of New Bedford was looking into Rochester as a potential location for a “retail center,” according to Jesse Pitts, a representative for C.A.L.M.

“Your town is being targeted – New Bedford is dragging its feet on this,” said Pitts, who noted that they were looking into potential sites in Freetown as well.

“We’re looking more as a retail store and not a growth facility. The zoning right now is a big issue within the industry, and I do commend you guys with taking the time to address it. This is something that is going on in a lot of towns, and they’re not addressing the issue. They’re just kind of skirting around it.”

As mentioned, C.A.L.M. has proposed a $6.5 million growth facility in New Bedford’s south end, but there are still zoning issues that have delayed the potential project.

Pitts also said that their goal is to find cities or towns that are comfortable with hosting a location.

“We’re kind of taking a proactive approach to this. We’re looking for people who are willing to deal with it. If the town doesn’t want it, then it’s probably not going to happen.”

Pitts also noted that C.A.L.M.’s top priority is security, and that they’ve already hired a security professional out of Las Vegas to address it.

“That is the biggest issue,” Pitts said.

Town Meeting is scheduled for November 25.

By Nick Walecka


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