Cannabis Bylaw Advances to Town Meeting

One resident attended the Marion Planning Board’s public hearing on September 17 on the proposed bylaw for adult recreational use of cannabis in Marion. The bylaw was easily recommended to Fall Town Meeting by the board.

The purpose of the proposed bylaw, which has been extensively discussed by the Planning Board over the past few months, is to provide a framework for regulating adult use cannabis establishments within the Limited Industrial Zoning District. The bylaw puts forth definitions, general requirements, and the conditions for a Special Permit. The bylaws are consistent with the laws and regulations developed by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, specifically 935 CMR 500.00.

Planning Board member Chris Collings brought attention to the ability of the Town to collect fees from applicants under this bylaw. Town Administrator Paul Dawson was consulted in drafting the language so that it was suitably vague to allow the Town to assess any fees allowed by law. Collings was satisfied, stating, “My goal was that there was an avenue and not to be pinned down … by specificity.”

Resident Henry Mauro of 19 Ichabod Lane suggested the Town consider charging a fee up front during the process rather than collecting an annual fee. Mauro cited the Towns of Tewksbury and Salem, which have assessed a $25,000 fee over four years, and other towns that have charged up to $100,000.

Board member Andrew Daniel remarked that, with the wording in the bylaw, “If it’s legal, we can do it.”

Chairman Will Saltonstall mentioned that the Board of Selectmen would be charged with determining and imposing the fees. The board moved to place the proposed bylaw on the warrant at Fall Town meeting.

In other business, town resident Sherman Briggs and developer Bill Curley met with the board to further discuss the proposed Inclusionary Housing development on Briggs’ Spring Street property. At issue this evening were the setbacks required by current zoning.

Saltonstall had spoken previously with town counsel who determined that the Planning Board cannot issue a special permit regarding dimensional requirements, further stating that setbacks are the purview of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Saltonstall suggested that the board has leeway with performance standards with construction and timing of the completion of the market units versus the LIP (Local Initiative Program) affordable housing units.

The board felt comfortable being flexible with the schedule of completion and occupancy of the units, with Vice Chairman Steve Kokkins standing firm in the idea that it was only the ZBA that could provide relief on setbacks.

Kokkins observed that the board needed to start with the original bylaw guidelines, recognizing the intent to keep a ratio of LIP units to market units and underscoring the importance of seeing that “the spirit [of the bylaw] is followed”.

Board member Eileen Marum, speaking in support of being flexible, reminded the board that “Mr. Briggs is doing something … on behalf of the town and providing affordable housing.”

After a lengthy discussion, Briggs spoke with some frustration that he had given his word to Town Meeting, adding “If I can’t build 27 units within 10′-15′ of the lot line instead of 20′, I could do 42 units, 12 per acre.” He mentioned that he thought the Planning Board should get town counsel to support the ZBA’s decision if they were to approve reduced setbacks for the project.

Town Planner Gil Hilario’s conversation with Town Counsel Barbara Carboni, in which she suggested there be a simultaneous application process, was the catalyst for a discussion of a possible joint meeting of the two boards.

Collings expressed support for initiating a more efficient process and providing evidence for the hardship required for a special permit to be issued for the project by the ZBA. Collings observed that the project was in line with the objectives of the Master Plan, saying, “We are going to need a way to do this. Co-joined meetings [to address] overlapping and conflicting ideas for the town versus the [town] bylaws.”

Saltonstall requested that Briggs and Curley draft a letter explaining their hardship, which, he said, would help with his conversation with the chair of the ZBA.

In other matters, the board approved a letter drafted by Saltonstall to Building Commissioner Scott Shippey regarding the request by Dwight Crosby of Tri-Town Motors at 149 Wareham Street to add towing to his existing business. The board agreed that the towing was an accessory use to the existing permitted use.

The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for Monday, October 1 at 7:00 pm in the Marion Town House.

Marion Planning Board

By Sarah French Storer


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