Hope bans marijuana facilities, cuts road budget at annual town meeting

By Kim Lincoln | Jun 19, 2017
Photo by: Kim Lincoln Hope officials answer questions during the June 15 annual town meeting. From left are Board of Selectmen members Mike Brown, Brian Powers Jr., Wendy Pelletier, Richard Crabtree and Town Administrator Samantha Mank.

Hope — Hope residents voted June 15 to enact an ordinance that prohibits marijuana retail establishments and social clubs in town.

The ban also includes marijuana cultivation and manufacturing facilities. The decision was approved by a 36-10 vote.

About 50 people attended the meeting, which lasted a little more than an hour, to pass an $853,573 budget, which represents an increase of about $74,800. After taking more than $544,000 in revenue into account, taxpayers will raise $309,273 locally, which is below the state's recommended property tax levy limit.

Sarah Reuf-Linquist of Camden served as moderator. The late Tom Ford of Hope, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this year, has traditionally served in the role.

Resident Harold Mosher asked why the ordinance to ban marijuana establishments was being brought forward, commenting that with increased taxes, the town could use the revenue.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Brian Powers Jr. said, speaking personally and not for the board as a whole, he just felt that as a society there are "more and more woes," and given the ever-increasing amount in funds needed to combat social issues in the school, he did not feel like allowing those types of establishments in town would do any good.

Board member Richard Crabtree said the way state law currently stands, towns are not allowed to enact an additional tax on these types of businesses and the costs, in terms of increasing police patrol and social needs, could be substantial.

However, he said, if the voters decided not to enact the ordinance, the board would get together and develop ordinances to responsibly identify areas of town where the facilities would be appropriate.

"You can't just grow it without it being a crime at the moment," Town Attorney Bill Kelley said, referring to commercial cultivation of marijuana.

There is an extensive review process going on at the state level, and officials have up to a year to adopt licensing rules, but that date may be extended, he said.

Kelley said his concern is that if towns take no action between now and the time the state figures out the licensing details, they could get into a situation where someone receives a permit, builds a building and then later wants to turn it into a marijuana establishment and is told they cannot. He said this measure, although it can always be reviewed again later, offers some protection to the town for the period between when voters passed the state law and when the regulations are created.

Resident Regina Rooney asked if that sort of situation would be the builder's responsibility, because they knew when they constructed the facility that they did not have a license.

"I live in the law, and people get creative," Kelley said, noting the concept of this ordinance is to create a grandfather clause.

The only change made to the municipal budget as presented was a motion by Budget Committee member John Jensen to reduce the road budget by $20,880, for a total of $391,086. Jensen said in talking to the road commissioner about the budget and realizing that line-item received an $86,000 increase, they came up with a plan for projects that can be deferred — mainly brush-cutting and minor road paving projects — and that was how the lower budget amount was determined.

Voters also approved two articles related to the buyout payment that Mid-Coast Solid Waste will receive when it ends its relationship with the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in 2018.

The town voted to take no action on an article requesting to increase the property tax levy limit of $520,530, because it did not apply, since voters lowered the budget by slashing the road budget earlier in the meeting.

At the start of the meeting, Town Clerk Bobbi Oxton and Bookkeeper Mary Tolles were each surprised with a $500 check for going above and beyond the call of duty in the summer of 2016, when the town was between town administrators. Jon Duke had left the role in June and new Town Administrator Samantha Mank did not begin until October.

Courier Publications Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at klincoln@villagesoup.com.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jun 20, 2017 11:47

All of this makes me remember when the town voted wet to allow alcohol. Back in the day, it was a very controversial subject. As Post Master and store owner, with small children in the store, I voted dry and my husband voted wet. It remained dry at that time.



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