After nearly an hour of deliberation, one blunt resident urged his fellow voters to “get out of the weeds,” so to speak, poking pun that it was high time to take a vote on the Medical Marijuana Treatment Center bylaw that sparked debate during the Mattapoisett Special Town Meeting Monday night, November 26.
Planning Board Chairman Tom Tucker introduced Article 1 that restricts medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTC) to the Limited Industry Zone, the result of a joint effort between the board and various other town officials to institute zoning so these establishments could not set up shop anywhere in the General Business zone upon the December 31 expiration of the temporary moratorium.
“We cannot deny a medical marijuana center in town; however, we can regulate where it is,” Tucker said.
As “empathetic and sympathetic to the Planning Board” as he said he was, resident Don Fleming took a few hits at strengthening the language of the article, despite Tucker’s plea that this debate should not be happening on Town Meeting floor; rather, residents had several opportunities to voice concerns during several public forums and public hearings.
Nonetheless, Fleming proposed three amendments – one to include explicit language that a MMTC could not convert to adult-use cannabis establishments (despite Town Meeting’s prior vote to ban adult-use cannabis businesses that would already preclude this), another requiring the applicant of a MMTC license to disclose all operating agreements if the business was a LLC (although the state’s competitive and rigorous licensing process thoroughly vets applicants and their business structure prior to issuing a license), and a third amendment to add “investors” in the section of the article that already states that applicants must issue a statement under oath disclosing all “owners, shareholders, partners, members, managers, directors, officers, or other similar parties, representatives and entities and their addresses.”
According to Fleming, when an applicant must demonstrate $500,000 in assets before receiving a marijuana establishment license, “you invite some interesting people into the game.” Making an applicant disclose funding sources, he said, lets the Town know “who they are dealing with.”
“Is it gambling money coming in?” Fleming asked, or perhaps money that would somehow be of concern?
Although Tucker explained that all of this was already regulated under the state’s laws, Fleming said he was more of a “belt and suspenders kind of person,” and preferred explicit language.
Moderator John Eklund called for a brief recess in order to consult with town counsel on language that would pack it all in and roll it into legal motions. Fleming’s ensuing motions continued the debate, with Fleming garnering enough votes to pass his first motion to add language to prevent adult-use marijuana conversion, but struck out on his second motion. By the time Fleming was discussing his third motion to add “investors,” resident Don Cuddy was ready to move on.
“This is a solution looking for a problem,” Cuddy said, pointing out that it felt more like 1960 that night than 2018. “A few years from now, [cannabis shops] will be as common as Dunkin’ Donuts. … And if anybody hasn’t noticed, Pablo Escobar is now in custody, so the Colombian cartels won’t be targeting Mattapoisett any time soon.
“Let’s get out of the weeds here,” said Cuddy. “Pun intended.”
The main motion with the one amendment was eventually adopted 90-3.
Voters also approved Article 8, appropriating $225,000 for a new ambulance for the Police Department. As Police Chief Mary Lyons explained, $100,000 would come from ambulance receipts, and the Town would borrow the remaining $125,000.
The ambulance will replace a 2006 ambulance that is “beyond its useful life” and “on its last leg,” Lyons stated.
Lyons also mustered support for Article 9 appropriating Mattapoisett’s share of $135,000
for a police radio communication upgrade project with Acushnet and Fairhaven.
The system will be upgraded from an analog to a digital analog system that allows for redundancy should power fail in Mattapoisett.
Of the $135,000 total, $39,000 will come from previous article balances and $96,000 from free cash.
Article 10 also passed, appropriating $10,000 towards the design, engineering, permitting, and approvals needed to improve, renovate, and rehabilitate Industrial Drive. Further work includes improving the intersection of Industrial Drive and North Street, the pedestrian crossing on North Street, and the development of a shared multi-use path (bike path) from North Street to the Marion Town line.
Sponsored by the Board of Selectmen, the $800,000 project would be funded in part by a grant the Town is requesting through the DOT bill grant.
Article 11 passed as well, although resident Jody Bauer questioned one of the six capital improvement projects that totaled $128,500 altogether.
The $40,000 request to pave what the article stated simply as “parking lot Barstow Street” prompted Bauer to ask why the Town would be funding a parking lot that belongs to the Mattapoisett Congregational Church.
Town Administrator Mike Gagne said the church allows the Council on Aging to use the lot during the week, and a written agreement between the church and the Town would be required before the paving. As of Town Meeting, there was no written agreement presented to voters.
“We won’t move unless the church actually makes the … agreement,” Gagne said.
The other capital projects included in the article were $15,000 for the Fire Department outboard motor replacement; $7,500 for fire truck lighting upgrades; $16,000 for COA facility upgrades; $35,000 for bike path safety crossing lights; and $35,000 for unspecified Town building repairs.
Voters also approved Article 16 appropriating $25,000 for the Town’s share of a new 23-foot 400-gallon capacity pumpout boat for the Harbormaster’s Department. Another $56,000 will be provided through a grant from the Clean Vessel Program.
Article 20 received a round of applause from voters upon its adoption, appropriating $88,426 for an emergency power generator at the Mattapoisett Housing Authority Complex.
The complex that mostly offers senior housing suffered long bouts without electricity during winter storms this prior season, prompting Selectman Jordan Collyer to bring up the concern to the lieutenant governor who in turn offered the Town a grant to fund the entire project. The Town will pay for the installation and receive full reimbursement after.
Other articles that passed:
Article 2 to amend the general Bylaws to include a new section, 2.18, essentially adopting the Mullin Rule that allows committee, commission, and board members to vote on a matter if they are absent from one session of the public hearing, so long as the member becomes familiarized with the matter through review of submittals, filings, documents, and recording of the meeting.
Article 3 to appropriate a total of $400,000 from Certified Free Cash to stabilization funds as follows: $50,000 to the Special Education Reserve Stabilization Fund, $100,000 to the Debt Service Stabilization Fund, $100,000 to the Long Term Stabilization Fund, and $150,000 to the Capital Improvement Stabilization Fund.
Article 4 for $10,000 to review the Town’s Zoning Bylaws, Rules, and Regulations.
Article 5 to borrow $100,000, use $201,250 from past article project money, and use $498,750 in grant money for a total of $800,000 to replace the water main at Pease’s Point.
Article 6 to enter into a 20-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with solar developer BWC Pine Island Brook, LLC.
Article 7 for $80,174 to supplement various departments as follows: $7,643 to the water Department; $67,506 to the Sewer Department; and $5,025 to the Excluded Debt Town Road Phase VIII Project.
Article 12 for $40,000 for repairs, improvements, renovations, and restoration work at the Town Wharf and dock facilities and other Town properties on the waterfront.
Article 13 for $155,965 to supplement various Fiscal Year 2019 budget line items as follows: $5,000 to Recreation; $60,000 to the Fire Department; $40,000 to the Reserve Fund; $6,500 to the Town Accountant; $15,265 to the Town Treasurer/Collector; $7,200 to the Selectmen; $16,000 to the Police; and $6,000 to the Waterfront Enterprise.
Article 14 for $11,699.66 for payment of a prior year bill for solid waste disposal.
Article 15 for $22,000 – of which $12,000 goes to Health Department Inspector Salaries and $10,000 to Town Solid Waste Disposal.
Article 17 for $30,000 for plans and bidding for Town projects “including but not limited to” solar on the Town landfill, and vaguely listed projects such as harbor improvements and dredging, compliance to the EMA MS4 regulations, and the OSHA Workplace Safety Act – nothing specified in the article.
Article 18 for $45,000 to make public works “improvements” such as defects in sidewalks, stormwater drainage in certain neighborhoods, and the design and engineering of road improvement projects – nothing specified in the article.
Article 19 for $65,000 for the Funding Reserve for Accrued Liability covering the costs associated with Town employee retirement.
Mattapoisett Special Town Meeting
By Jean Perry