Planning Board Undertakes Marijuana Moratorium

With an April 1, 2018 deadline on the horizon, the date when an act to ensure the safe access to marijuana goes into effect, the Mattapoisett Planning Board is feeling the pressure to do something and do it quickly. On December 18, they began that difficult task.

During the special Planning Board meeting held on December 11 to gauge the opinions of Mattapoisett voters on pursuing a moratorium, it was clear the sentiment on legal marijuana was still running 50-50. It was clear, however, that even those who felt recreational marijuana sales should be regulated and not banned in Mattapoisett, nearly all were for a moratorium that would give Mattapoisett until December 2018 to come up with bylaws.

Chairman Tom Tucker opened the meeting, saying that the board needed to submit the request to the selectmen to take the matter to Town Meeting.

Planning Board member Janice Robbins said, “A moratorium gives us time.” She then went on to say that it was rather pointless to draft regulatory bylaws now in advance of the state regulations, given that such preemptive bylaws would only have to be rewritten when the state law went into affect.

Tucker read into the minutes a letter from Lisa Cardoza, 4 Hawthorne Street, which stated her deep concerns over the impact of allowing marijuana dispensaries in town, claiming such laws would negatively affect property values and increase crime.

Tucker then said that it seemed clear from the December 11 public hearing, “There is consensus to go for a moratorium.”

Robbins wondered if the board should reach out to officials in Colorado for bylaw advice, but Planning Board member Nathan Ketchell said, “Those who voted for marijuana may not have wanted to buy it … but to decriminalize it.” He said that if and when a moratorium was in place, a subcommittee might be established to write local bylaws.

One of the three residents in attendance on this night was Steve Ruel. “I think this is driven by an industry. There’s another agenda here,” he told the board. “It’s sad to me that this town is going to have to regulate drug sales – it’s pretty scary stuff.” He added, “I’m for a moratorium and a ban.”

Tucker said if a special town meeting is held asking voters to place a moratorium on recreational marijuana sales, the ensuing vote would give a good indication as to whether or not voters would accept an all-out ban.

Resident and former selectman George Randall spoke, saying, “I came into this world in 1929. Mattapoisett was a tough place to live, but we made it special. Now something like this comes up. On the medical side, it’s necessary. The recreational side will take away the ‘special’ in Mattapoisett. We are dealing with young kids. They’re going to take your places one day. If we soil their lives, their minds, they won’t be able to.”

Randall thinks there would be lots of heartache and trouble with recreational marijuana. “If marijuana goes through so easily, a lot are going to be ruined, their lives ruined.”

“This is a big, big mistake,” he asserted.

Randall ended his comments by warning, “We’re going to open a door that we’re not going to be able to close.”

A vote to ask the selectmen to set a special town meeting was unanimous.

A discussion on timing of public hearings in advance of a special town meeting would follow, as were details about draft language for articles requesting a moratorium and how quickly they could set the necessary meetings. The board decided that a public hearing possibly on January 25 to vet voters’ issues and debate a moratorium question prior to a special town meeting was necessary, as Tucker reminded them, “We don’t want to debate this on Town Meeting floor.”

The board also concluded that if everything moves along smoothly, a special town meeting could take place as early as February 26, 2018. Planning Board Administrator Mary Crain will follow up with meeting scheduling.

In other business, a report from peer review consultant, Soares Pumping, Inc., regarding the condition of septic systems at the Brandt Point Village subdivision seemed to contain discrepancies, said board member Gail Carlson.

Carlson is also a resident of the subdivision.

She said the report states that her home had received an inspection inside and out, and that residents had received educational materials on the new septic technology being employed at the site. Those statements, she said, were not true.

The board discussed the long and difficult history of the subdivision and how the current developer is not responsive to Planning Board requests for updates on completion or status reports on a variety of construction details.

Robbins pointed out that verbal agreements with the developer likely are not binding, and that work completion was actually scheduled for August 2018.

Tucker instructed Crain to contact town counsel to ascertain next steps and to advise the Board of Health that the septic report contained errors.

The next regular meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for February 5 at 7:00 pm in the Town Hall conference room. Special meetings may be scheduled in the meantime.

Mattapoisett Planning Board

By Marilou Newell


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