The Waldoboro Planning Board met Jan. 26 to work on ordinances for methadone clinics and marijuana dispensaries.

At a special town meeting on Jan. 11, Waldoboro residents voted to approve a 180-day moratorium for those businesses. The moratoriums will temporarily prohibit methadone clinics and marijuana dispensaries from opening in Waldoboro

The planning board includes Chairman Charles Campbell, Abden Simmons, Carlo Bianchi, Ed Karkow, Charles Flint, Jonathan “Jody” Perry and Barbara Boardman. Misty Gorski also participated in the meeting. She is the town’s planning and development director and code enforcement officer.

The planning board started the Jan. 26 meeting with a discussion of methadone clinics. The town cannot ban those clinics, but it can regulate them through the land use ordinance.

From a land-use standpoint, the major concerns with a methadone clinic in Waldoboro are traffic, parking, having an appropriate structure, and public safety, according to planning board members.

Planning board members suggested the town could require methadone clinics to be located in the Route 1 Commercial A district, which does not include the busy area around Hannaford and the town office.

“With these facilities, there are a high number of people visiting them daily, which could impact some of the areas where they are on Route 1,” Gorski said. “It is probably the most suitable to handle that type of traffic; however, there are some areas of Route 1 that are more dense, like right in this area [the town office] so maybe more toward the outskirts on Route 1, not necessarily too far out, but something that can handle that amount of traffic.”   

Planning board members discussed a parking requirement that could be tied to the clinic’s square footage.

In a discussion of requirements for a clinic’s structure, planning board members discussed linking the amount of waiting space to the number of treatment rooms. They discussed occupancy rates based on the number of people that a clinic can serve per hour. They also discussed how appointments at a clinic could help with traffic and parking problems.

Waldoboro pursued the methadone moratorium because of the controversy in Warren to site a clinic in the village at a former school. Two different clinic operators are interested in opening facilities in Rockland and Warren. That may mean Waldoboro will not face immediate pressure for a clinic in town. However, the demand for treatment could increase in the coming years.

“The immediate threat I don’t think is necessarily there,” Gorski said “However, when you start to look at reports of opiate dependency in Maine, I think it’s safe to say that possibly in the future we’re going to be looking at even more facilities. It may not be for 20 years, but then again we are heading in the direction where more people are having it. So it is prudent on our part to have something in place.”

Two concerned citizens attended the planning board meeting. Resident Art Emanuelson said he opposes a methadone clinic in Waldoboro. He said the crime rate would rise, and the town’s police department would have to respond to more assaults and robberies. He also said a clinic “would not be very good for the mom-and-pop image that we are trying to create in Waldoboro.”

Emanuelson said, “You’re going to get people from outside, even out of state, saying ‘Oh, methadone, marijuana, let’s go get it.’ It’s not good for the town.”   

The planning board then moved on to discussion of marijuana dispensaries.

The major land-use issues that planning board members discussed were security, prohibiting the display of paraphernalia in windows and lighting for the facility.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services in July selected Northeast Patients Group for a marijuana dispensary in Thomaston for the state’s District 4, which includes Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Waldo counties. However, Gorski said in a few years, the state could re-evaluate the demand and possibly allow another dispensary in the district.

Meeting participants said parking and traffic problems likely will be less of a concern in a marijuana dispensary than a methadone clinic.

“With a dispensary, I don’t think parking is going to be a big issue … I think security is more of an issue,” said Campbell, the chairman.

Planning board members talked about requiring the dispensaries to be located in the Route 1 Commercial A district, but agreed to consider whether other districts might also be appropriate. They also said the town could adopt a regulation to allow only one dispensary in Waldoboro.

“There is a good argument for having whatever facility is allowed in a very visible place, with easy access in and out,” Karkow said. “So Route 1 meets those criteria. Maybe you could say near Route 1 on Route 32.”

Resident Deborah Kent said she opposes a marijuana dispensary in Waldoboro. She said the town should require a dispensary to be located near the police station. The dispensary should be “observed at all times,” Kent said.

Gorski and Karkow said they will work on draft language for an amendment to the land use ordinance to cover methadone clinics and marijuana dispensaries. The planning board will continue to work on these issues at its public meetings. For schedules and agendas, visit waldoboromaine.org.

Any changes to the land use ordinance regarding methadone clinics or marijuana dispensaries would include public hearings with the planning board and review by the Board of Selectmen. To go into effect, Waldoboro residents would have to vote to approve the changes to the land use ordinance.

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