Pot shops, crematory, selectmen to go before Thomaston voters

By Dan Otis Smith | May 12, 2017
Source: File Photo Residents gather for the 2016 Town Meeting.

Thomaston — After choosing two Select Board candidates and an assessor at the ballot box June 13, at the American Legion Hall, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., voters are invited to decide on a number of ordinance changes and the town budget at the annual town meeting June 14 at 7 p.m., also at the American Legion Hall.

Will they allow marijuana stores? What about a crematory? Under what conditions?

Two incumbents and two newcomers are running to fill two open Select Board seats this year. Veterans Peter Lammert and Lee-Ann Upham are running to retake their seats for additional three-year terms, while newcomers Ryan Jones and Alex Nimon are hoping to sit on the board for the first time.

Fred Wigglesworth, the current chairman of the Board of Assessors, is running uncontested to maintain his seat on the three-person board.

On June 14, voters will gather to decide whether to approve an ordinance amendment regulating marijuana dispensaries and stores and cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities.

Voters in Thomaston approved of the November ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana by about 5 percent, or 72 votes.

The ordinance amendment expressly bans marijuana social clubs, establishments where marijuana is consumed on the premises. It also limits marijuana stores to the highway commercial zoning district, which includes the area along Route 1 where large retail outlets such as Wal-Mart and Lowe’s are located. Cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities would only be permitted in the industrial district, a larger adjacent zone most prominently defined by the Dragon Cement plant.

Dispensaries could go in either district. And the ordinance allows the Planning Board to approve marijuana cultivation on parcels in other zones “enrolled in the Maine Farmland Program and receiving Farmland Program Assessments for five (5) years or more.”

All such facilities would be subject to review by the Planning Board.

The amendment includes safety, electrical, security and odor regulations, among others. Licenses to establish marijuana facilities would come with an initial cost of 50 cents per square foot, followed by a 35-cent-per-square-foot cost for annual renewals. Both initial licenses and renewals could only be issued after a public hearing.

While private, personal use and cultivation of marijuana by adults has been legal in Maine since January, the Legislature has yet to develop regulations for retail sales, and selling marijuana remains illegal. As of now, the state has until next February to develop those regulations.

Voters will also be asked whether to add wording allowing the Planning Board to review plans for cemeteries or crematories in the zoning districts where the Village Cemetery lies. The proposed amendment comes about as a result of interest from Hall Funeral Homes in establishing a crematory at the cemetery. Currently, neither cemeteries nor crematories are addressed in the ordinances.

The town meeting warrant additionally includes amendments to the town’s sign ordinances and tweaks to zoning regulations.

In other business, voters will be asked to approve the 2017-2018 budget, totaling $3,259,455, up by 2.83 percent, or $89,741, according to town documents.

A budget summary released by Town Manager Val Blastow in March indicated an increase in the mil rate to $18.68. It also notes that 45.8 percent of the total tax for 2016-2017 was levied on 20 property owners, 10 of which are in the commercial area on the east end of town.

 

According to the summary, most of the proposed increases come in the general budget, but a significant sum comes from $14,360 for the update of the comprehensive plan and an estimated $10,000 from the property tax appeal by Lowe’s, which was settled with the town last month.

The warrant also asks residents to raise and appropriate $100,000 toward paving Beechwood Street and Studley Lane, $30,000 toward the construction and maintenance of sidewalks and $15,000 for “oversight, communications and safety” in relation to the Route 1 construction project.

Other larger increases shown in the warrant include the following:

- about $12,000 for Public Works, spread out between employee wages, the stump dump and operations

- $11,000 for the purchase of firefighting equipment, including protective clothing and self-contained breathing apparatuses, as well as about $10,000 to the fire department mostly for equipment and vehicle maintenance

- about $9,800 in General Government, mostly from salaries and wages

- about $8,400 for unclassified accounts, largely from federal payroll tax contributions

- about $8,400 in police department wages

The warrant also includes several proposed expenditures from reserve accounts such as a new dump truck, snowplow and sander, a police cruiser, Fourth of July Committee costs and a new ambulance.

Reporter Dan Otis Smith can be reached at 594-4401 x123 or by email at dsmith@villagesoup.com.

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