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Planning board discusses marijuana cultivation change

Approves Ford Enterprises plan for Route 105 property
By Daniel Dunkle | Feb 18, 2021

Hope — A local medical marijuana cultivator took one step closer to being allowed to switch to recreational status at the Feb. 17 Planning Board meeting.

Seth and Ashley Haskins have been cultivating medical marijuana and they are seeking an ordinance adjustment that would allow them to change the designation to recreational marijuana. They would sell the products through Botony, a group with a retail operation outside the town.

The Haskins, Ari Meil, and Mark Benjamin of Botony met with the board so it could make a recommendation to the Select Board in preparation for putting the question on the town meeting ballot in June.

Town Administrator and Code Enforcement Officer Samantha Mank said the Select Board was seeking input from the Planning Board to see if the proposed ordinance change conflicts with anything else in the town’s ordinances.

The group is seeking to remove “Indoor Adult-Use Cultivation” from the list of prohibited businesses under the current regulations. This would require changes to the land use ordinance and the marijuana moratorium. It was presented as “a simple two-step stop-gap measure that would allow some adult-use marijuana cultivation to commence this spring while allowing Hope to take their time crafting a specific ordinance for adult-use marijuana cultivation.”

Planning Board Chair Langley Willauer opened the discussion saying the Botony members were in a hurry.

“Boards do not work well in a hurry,” he said.

Planning board member Molly Luce argued it was not a significant change. They are already growing now, she said, and they only want to change so they are not only selling it as medical marijuana, but for recreational use. She compared it to changing from selling one’s blueberries at one market to another.

“I don’t know why we wouldn’t,” she said.

Willauer said Haskins has not come before the Planning Board before and questioned how he obtained a building permit for a 5,000-square-foot building on the Haskins’ 60-acre property.

“How did that never come before the planning board?” he asked.

Mank said, “That’s not what’s before you right now.”

Willauer asked if the building in question had anything to do with the cultivation facility.

“Not currently,” Haskins said.

Willauer asked what the plan was.

Haskins said he hoped the plan was that the Town of Hope would work with them to allow them to change from medical to recreational.

Vice Chair Harold Mosher said he did not see it as a Planning Board issue at all. “It’s not our decision to change an ordinance.”

Meil said they just needed the Planning Board’s approval to put this question to the voters.

Luce made a motion that the Planning Board sees no difference between medical and recreational marijuana as it pertains to the land use ordinance, and that the issue could go forward with the Select Board.

The motion passed by a vote of 5-1 with Lewis Merrifield opposed.

In other business, Dan Ford was back before the planning board for a public hearing on his application to move his earth-moving business, Ford Enterprises, from Hatchet Mountain Road to a new parcel on Route 105. The board has also performed a site walk of the property.

Ford plans to build a 2,400-square-foot shop on the site in addition to a sand/salt shed and a single-story ranch house. The work site and home would not be visible from the road due to natural screening from existing trees.

Ford said he works mostly during the weekdays, 7 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m., and he plans 30 truck trips per day. He would also work with 100-150 cords of wood at the site.

There were only a few questions and comments from members of the public online. At least one person has contacted the town expressing support for the project. Questions raised were mostly about potential traffic caused by the business.

Luce said the board should move forward and approve the project and made a motion to that effect. The board voted 6-0 with several conditions, including that Ford comply with the noise ordinance and create a permanent structure for the salt shed.

The salt shed had generated a bit of discussion. Merrifield said the shed should not be in a Quonset hut because it could deteriorate and allow runoff. Willauer said that was not required by the regulations, but the Planning Board can go above and beyond state requirements.

Luce opposed imposing more restrictions on the shed.

Ford said a lot of other people in his business have the kind of sheds Merrifield was talking about, and Merrifield said that may be so, but Ford had come before this board.

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