Board Reviews Medicinal Marijuana Bylaw

Planning Board members decided that they needed to do a little more investigating before advertising for a public hearing to present the Registered Marijuana Dispensary (RMD) draft bylaw slated for the Annual Town Meeting warrant in May.

Town Counsel Jon Witten presented the first draft of the bylaw on February 18, asking board members to discuss what areas to zone for RMD siting, taking into account setbacks from residences, which left some board members questioning whether siting of RMDs in Marion was feasible at all.

Witten used the standard 500-foot setback from residences and schools as a starting point for the bylaw, reminding board members that they are not bound by that number.

“There is no place in Marion that would fall within that location,” said board member Norman Hills, questioning the 500-foot setback, saying he did not think any location existed that would not place a RMD within 500 feet of a residence. “We don’t have large zones to begin with,” he continued, asking whether or not that would even permit a RMD in Marion.

Board members decided to hold off on deciding which zone to permit RMDs and what to recommend for setbacks before advertising a public hearing on the bylaw, which would preclude the board from making any substantive changes to the bylaw presented at the hearing.

The board will have to strike a balance between being too restrictive and not restrictive enough, so they decided to continue the discussion during the March 3 Planning Board meeting. This means the bylaw will be submitted as an article for the warrant before holding a public hearing, so no changes can be made at that point, according to Witten.

The board already voted to omit Limited Business Zoning as an option, leaving General Business and Light Industrial for consideration.

Witten advised the board to lean more toward being restrictive. “It’s harder to entrench, but easier to expand,” he told the board.

Also during the meeting, Ken Motta of Field Engineering came before the board at their request, answering questions on storm water calculations pertaining to hydraulic structures in project planning.

The Department of Environmental Protection has a standard for rain water level calculation, known as TP-40, which is composed of rainfall charts for storm events from a 1-year 30-minute rainfall to a 100-year 24-hour event. A new study from the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University increases rainfall quantities of more extreme weather events, indicating that the TP-40 standard is obsolete when planning for structures such as drainage basins in construction projects.

Hills previously brought the issue up and requested that the board learn more about the newer Cornell standard, which, by the end of the discussion, did not prompt other board members to consider it further.

Motta said his opinion was that the Cornell study was “overly conservative” and could be exaggerated. After all, it is based on hypothetical storms of larger magnitude in the future, as board member Steven Gonsalves pointed out.

“Is this ‘chicken little the sky is falling,’” asked Vice-Chairman Stephen Kokkin, “or is it appropriate to [change]?” He asked Motta, “Why wouldn’t the DEP adopt Cornell?”

Motta replied that the two standards are based on “two different statistical datas.”

The bottom line, as Hills put it, is that the board will not consider the Cornell study and will keep to what is currently in the bylaw.

In other matters, John Rockwell from the Buzzards Bay Natural Estuary Program presented the board with a zoning map that the board hopes to present at Town Meeting for adoption as the official town map.

The current official map was adopted in 1999, and since then the Town adopted some zoning changes in 2006 that are not reflected in the present official town map.

The board was not confident in the FEMA velocity zones featured on the map, especially since some of them are still under scrutiny, so the board decided to have Rockwell remove the velocity zones and focus in on the zoning.

Before adjourning, the board voted to make no comment to the Zoning Board of Appeals regarding the matter of Hawley Bigelow of 16 Pitcher Street, for which the ZBA requested Planning Board input.

Continued until the March 3 meeting of the Planning Board is discussion and possible comment to the ZBA regarding Dale and Laura Briggs, Lot 17, Map 21.

By Jean Perry


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