Medical Marijuana Bylaw Questioned

The October 15 meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board was a missed opportunity for the vast majority of the community when only one resident attended to comment on the draft Medical Marijuana Bylaw being prepared for the Fall Special Town Meeting.

The draft written with the legal guidance of KP Law and a committee comprised of Planning Board member Janice Robbins, Planning Board Administrator Mary Crain, Police Chief Mary Lyons, residents Sandra Dawson and Don Bamberger, and businessman Robert Field, is the only use being considered by the Town, as recreational marijuana had previously been prohibited by majority vote. Yet, the community was prepared to accept the sale and distribution of medical marijuana products; thus, setting in motion the necessity for a bylaw governing its sale. But where?

Robbins said that the committee had struggled to identify a location in town that could meet the state statute – not within 500 feet of residences, schools, places of worship, playgrounds, or any location where minors might congregate. The committee believed that only left the Mattapoisett Industrial District, located off North Street.

But resident Dick Morgado took umbrage to what he considered a dangerous location after dark.

“Why can’t it be in a more open location?” he asked. His question was deeply rooted in his personal experience with medical marijuana – his daughter uses the topical products to help relieve what he described as a “disability.” He said, “People who use it shouldn’t have to feel they can’t be in the public. It puts a stigma on them. We don’t put that on liquor stores.”

Morgado pointed out that because sales of medical marijuana are strictly a cash business, there were inherent dangers. He suggested the committee locate it along the Route 6 corridor.

Adding some perspective to the conversation was Highway Surveyor and former Planning Board member Barry Denham.

“Our zoning developed after our town was built,” he began. “The industrial area is the only place in town that doesn’t have residences.”

Denham pointed out that dwelling units are located throughout the Route 6 corridor which is zoned General Business that includes private homes and residences, making it virtually unacceptable for marijuana establishments per the state statute.

“I don’t think a bylaw should stigmatize people,” Morgado asserted.

Robbins said, “The committee did think about that,” in reference to the rather isolated nature of Industrial Drive, “but the desire [is] to keep it away from family uses while also being something that could be acceptable at Town Meeting.”

Robbins said the location was the police chief’s idea.

Morgado countered, “You don’t keep children away from doctor offices or pharmacies – it’s a medical product: it’s not a horrible thing.”

Chairman Tom Tucker told Morgado, “You can always amend a bylaw after it’s been approved.”

A public hearing will be held on November 5, at which time the draft bylaw will be presented for a final round of public discourse before heading to the Special Town Meeting floor.

Other business handled by the Planning Board on this night included an approval to continue until November 5 the public hearing Form C Definitive Subdivision Plan submitted by Dennis Arsenault for property located at the end of Snow Fields Road.

Also continued was the public hearing for Brandt Point Village Modification to Definitive Subdivision Plan and the discussion of the Notice to Cure Lender’s Agreement Default Review.

Tucker said it was unfortunate that the hearing would have to be continued, but that the town’s legal counsel, Jonathan Silverstein of KP Law, was unavailable due to town meeting commitments with other communities.

Planning Board member Karen Field questioned why another attorney in the practice couldn’t fill in for Silverstein. Tucker said, “It’s killing me to do this,” but felt it was better for the town’s interests to have the same attorney throughout the proceedings rather then trying to bring another one up to speed.

Resident and long time opponent to the subdivision Paul Osenkowski expressed his frustration that the hearing was once again being continued seeming to question the necessity in doing so.

But Denham said, “We have residents who have bought into the project (Phase 1).” He said that it was better to try and work with the current development team because the costs associated with the septic system, designed to handle the entire neighborhood of 90 bedrooms, would be too much of a financial burden on the eight homeowners.

Tucker said he had had a conversation with the town administrator about Phase 2 in the event it doesn’t get constructed. He said the administrator had indicated that the Phase 1 residents might have the option of tying into the municipal system.

Of Phase 1, Tucker said that the peer review consultant Ken Motta of Field Engineering had identified $75,000 of additional work pending. The hearing was continued until November 19.

Earlier in the evening the board approved a Form A Not Required for property owned by Gerald Randall and being sold to the Town as part of the Mattapoisett River Valley watershed. Representing Randall was N. Douglas Schneider of Schneider & Associates whose herculean efforts to write deed language was noted by attorney Peter Paul.

The property in question, Paul said, has been in the Randall family since the 1700s, thus attaching viable deed language for legal conveyance was a major challenge. Paul said that the sale required text sufficient for a deed, language that simply didn’t exist. Schneider’s work was applauded by Paul. The Planning Board approved the request thus allowing the sale of some 24 acres to the Water and Sewer Department.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for November 5 at 7:00 pm, location to be announced.

Mattapoisett Planning Board

By Marilou Newell

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