As requested by the Rochester Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board on May 8 held a public hearing for an Annual Town Meeting warrant article to amend the temporary marijuana retail sale moratorium by extending the moratorium until June 30, 2019.
The moratorium, like similar ones adopted in the Tri-Town, includes temporary bans on recreational marijuana dispensaries, processing facilities, cultivation facilities, and any other commercial businesses that would distribute recreational marijuana.
The hearing was promptly closed with no questions of discussion from the board or the two residents in attendance, and board members voted unanimously to recommend the article to Town Meeting voters.
The Attorney General’s Office has expressed in multiple responses to municipal marijuana moratorium bylaws that it will not honor moratoria beyond the December 31, 2018 date, saying that the time provided to municipalities in the Commonwealth was sufficient, which was stated in the AG’s response to the Town of Egremont’s adopted bylaw: “We believe that it is reasonable to expect a town to complete its planning process for the new use of Recreational Marijuana Establishments by December 31, 2018, six months after publication of the final regulations. Beyond that time period, a moratorium on Recreational Marijuana Establishments could be viewed as unconstitutional because it is not tied to current legitimate planning needs.”
Planning Board Chairman Arnie Johnson acknowledged that, but stated, “We’ll give it a shot.”
The Town’s current bylaw provides for a moratorium only until October 31, 2018.
“The worst they can say is they changed the end date to December 31stor something,” said Johnson, “which means we would have to act really fast on regulations, and apparently we got a lot of business coming our way.”
Johnson was referring to Town Planner Steve Starrett’s announcement that there are now seven large-scale solar project applications that will come before the board over the next couple of months.
In other matters, the board had to re-vote and amend its approval for the Special Permit for the Borrego Solar Systems solar farm at 453 Rounseville Road due to a clerical error, “Which affected the way an aggrieved person could appeal, and it wasn’t picked up … by town counsel,” said Johnson.
Johnson specified that the decision noted an appeal should be directed to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which is the case for subdivisions and Site Plan reviews; however, for solar projects, appeals are made to the Court.
“There was an appeal made erroneously to the ZBA, since been withdrawn,” Johnson said, “and we need to re-vote this tonight with the correct language … so there’ll be an additional twenty-day appeal period.”
Attorney John Serky, on behalf of Borrego Solar Systems, was unable to attend the meeting that night, but he delivered earlier in the day a ”humble pie” (cherry flavored) with some plates and forks for the board to eat in lieu of the crow he suggested they eat in an email to the board “reporting” on the board’s error.
The board continued the Special Residential Development Special Permit, an Application for Work on a Scenic Highway Permit, and a Groundwater Protection District Special Permit for REpurpose Properties, LLC. The public hearing request from the engineer of the age-restricted community, 22 duplex units, for the Village at Plumb Corner was continued until May 16.
The board also continued the Approval Not Required application for Joseph Longo for property on Mendell Road, Map 30, Lot 2 until May 16 at the applicant’s request.
The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is set for Wednesday, May 16, at the Rochester Town Hall at 7:00 pm. There will be no regular meeting on Tuesday, May 22.
Rochester Planning Board
By Jean Perry