The Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen on January 9 set the Special Town Meeting for February 12 at 6:30 pm in the Old Rochester Regional High School auditorium, seeking voters’ support for a moratorium on recreational marijuana sales in Mattapoisett.
On the heels of two public discussions on the topic of how the town should proceed, given the fast approaching launch date of March 1 for the legal sale of recreational marijuana throughout the state, the selectmen concurred that there was no time to lose.
During public discussion on the topic, it was clear that voters wished to pursue a temporary moratorium to give the Planning Board time to draft new zoning bylaws that would allow some local controls to be put in place.
Town Administrator Michael Gagne read from a letter received from Planning Board Chairman Tom Tucker that read in part:
“The purpose of the moratoria are to provide the Town time to study the legal, planning and public safety issues related to these uses. The Town needs to determine how to regulate these uses and to consider if there should be an outright or partial ban.”
The Planning Board asked the selectmen to consider two warrant articles.
The first article would ask voters to pass a temporary moratorium on the use of land or structures for recreational marijuana establishments and related uses involving recreational marijuana.
The second article spoke to the use and dispensing of medical marijuana.
The draft article proposes a moratorium that covers the use of land or structures for medical marijuana treatment centers, including cultivating, processing, selling, administration, and printed materials regarding medical marijuana use.
Selectman Tyler Macallister said, “The issue of ‘medical’ wasn’t touched in either of the public meetings we had.” He expressed reservations about including medical use language in the warrant, wondering aloud “Is it the right thing to do?”
Macallister then said, “It’s managed differently. You need a prescription. There are people who legitimately use it.” He said a moratorium was the right way to go with recreational use and believed that by including ‘medical’ use, voters may be confused.
Gagne said he would ask the Planning Board for clarification on that article, and said that Planning Board Administrator Mary Crain had been working closely with Attorney Katherine Laughman of KP Law, the town’s legal team in writing the articles.
The selectmen were unanimous in their support of a special town meeting.
In other matters, the selectmen held a hearing with Taylor Cultured Seafood, Inc., owners of a 100-acre aquaculture site located between Brandt Island and West Island in Fairhaven, regarding license noncompliance matters.
Present to respond to the issues raised was Zach Sun, a civil engineer and family member of owner Jian Sun, and Tobey Cook, who said he was the farm manager.
Gagne read from a list of concerns that the town considered as being noncompliant with the license. Those issues were: 1) failure to mark boundaries of licensed area and equipment; 2) failure to maintain a daily presence between May 15 and October 15; 3) abandonment of the licensed area with failure to remove equipment resulting in navigational hazards; 4) area that had been used was significantly different than the area denoted in the license; 5) lack of shellfish activity constituted a lack of use; and 6) unauthorized change in species to be farmed.
Sun and Cook concurred that all the stated noncompliance issues were, in fact, true. Cook said, “It’s all true. The former owner left the company in May 2016. We did remove and clean the area, but we don’t have experience with scallops.”
Scallops were the permitted species, but now the company wished to switch to oysters.
Macallister said, “So what I hear is the site has gone untouched except for equipment removal. I hear it’s been abandoned.”
Chairman Paul Silva said, “I’m really disappointed the owners didn’t come.”
Selectman Jordan Collyer asked, “Do you really need one hundred acres?” He noted that a much smaller area would produce many thousands of oysters. He said he would be in favor of allowing two smaller parcels once the owners addressed issues, but if they came back for 100 acres he would veto that request.
Silva also instructed the representatives to return with a business plan and state and/or federally issued permits, along with the owner.
The hearing was continued until March 13.
The selectmen also met with restaurateurs Nabih, Nouhad, and Gary Moujdbber, owners of the Lebanese Kitchen, to discuss why they had failed to open as planned nearly two years ago.
The partners had received alcohol, entertainment, and common victualler licenses and were to have opened in the spring of 2016. Now they came forward to explain.
- Moujdbber said, “We’ve had a lot of issues.” He said, “Every time we fix one thing, we run into another problem.” He described the building as being covered in Band-Aids, things that he had to repair before moving on to the next project.
The numerous issues had set them back, not only in terms of an opening date, but also in terms of expenses.
“Everything is three times more than expected,” he said.
Moujdbber said the majority of structural and interior repairs and renovations have been completed, but that they are still months away from being able to open the doors. He gave the selectmen a May 2018 date.
“We are going to hold you to it,” Silva stated. He said Christine Richards, an administrative assistant in the Selectmen’s Office, would make bi-weekly site visits and report directly to the selectmen on Moujdbber’s progress.
Collyer added, “If you need anything from any town hall department, we’ll help you.”
Silva also thanked the Moujdbbers for donations to the annual holiday party held at Shipyard Park.
Before wrapping up the meeting, Gagne reported that a series of neighborhood meetings would be taking place beginning Thursday, January 11, at 6:30 pm in Center School and for the next four subsequent Thursdays to continue discussion on village street improvements. He urged residents to attend the meetings so that all voices could be heard on the future of the neighborhood.
Gagne also applauded the highway, police, and fire departments for their good work during the recent snow event.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen is scheduled for January 23 at 6:30 pm in the town hall conference room.
Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen
By Marilou Newell