Proposed commercial marijuana grows get public hearing

By Susan Mustapich | Mar 13, 2019

CAMDEN — A scaled-back zoning proposal allowing small to medium-sized commercial marijuana cultivation establishments in the more rural areas of Camden is set for a Planning Board public hearing March 21.

Planning Board meetings begin at 5 p.m., in the John French Jr. conference room on Washington Street.

Maine law now specifies that town residents have the final say on commercial marijuana growing, retail, manufacturing and testing operations. Towns can opt in to allow these businesses with a public vote. Until town residents vote to approve these marijuana businesses, they are not allowed.

However, state regulations required to license adult-use marijuana businesses have been delayed, and the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services has to issue a second request for proposals for a consultant to write these regulations, according to The Portland Press Herald. Until licensing is completed at the state level, no commercial growing facilities can be opened. Despite uncertainty on the state level, Camden is moving forward with local zoning rules.

Local rules: where marijuana may be grown

State law allows growing facilities up to 20,000 square feet and larger; however, Camden's zoning proposal will allow only the two smaller-sized facilities designated by the state, up to  500 square feet of plant canopy (Tier 1) and up to 2,000 square feet (Tier 2).

Proposed zoning in Camden will allow Tier 1 and 2 marijuana-growing facilities on lots of 1.5 acres indoors and on 5-acre lots outdoors in four zoning districts: Rural 1 and 2, Coastal Residential and Village Extension.

In four other districts, growing facilities will be allowed indoors only, with no lot size restrictions. Tier 1 and 2 marijuana-growing facilities will be allowed in the Highway Business, River Business and Industrial districts. Indoor Tier 1 facilities only will be allowed in the Neighbor Service district.

Commercial marijuana growing will be prohibited in the following districts: Village, Downtown Business,Transitional Business, Harbor Business, Transitional Harbor Business, Transitional  River Business, Business Opportunity, Rural Recreation (the Snow Bowl) and Natural Resource Protection.

Local control and regulation

The current proposal requires any cultivation facility to obtain prior approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals. This approval process gives owners of neighboring properties a public forum to air questions and concerns and to provide input, according to Planning and Development Director Jeremy Martin.

A local license will be required for growing establishments, similar to the food and alcohol licenses currently required for restaurants, bars and inns. The marijuana cultivation licenses will be subject to annual renewals by the Select Board. Martin explained that the licensing creates regulatory standards and gives the community oversight of the facilities. He said Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell has weighed in on this.

Growing operations will be prohibited within 500 feet of both public and private schools, existing day care operations, the Camden Public Library, Harbor Park and much of the Snow Bowl. They will also be prohibited in downtown business areas and the village district.

Martin said at the March 7 Planning Board meeting that the current proposal moves forward in small steps what the majority of Camden voters approved in 2016. The Planning Board voted unanimously to move the proposal to the March 21 public hearing.

All these measures together should provide confidence that the presence of these facilities in Camden will have minimal impact on public health and safety, he said.

History

In November 2016, 55 percent of Camden voters approved a statewide citizen referendum to legalize recreational and commercial marijuana uses.

In 2017, the Select Board appointed members to the Adult Cannabais Working Group to come up with zoning recommendations on commercial marijuana establishments.

In August 2018, the Working Group produced the first version of its proposal, recommending licensing small-scale marijuana growing and product manufacture anywhere in Camden, except around schools and the Camden Public Library. The Select Board did not discuss the proposal, but recommended further work and Planning Board review.

More recently, Martin and the Planning Board have worked on many revisions for commercial marijuana cultivation. Town attorney Bill Kelly reviewed and had input into the proposal. Over the course of the revisions, the proposal has reduced the number of districts where commercial growing will be allowed, and added a more restrictive approval process.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Mar 13, 2019 15:45

Just like alcohol. Legal and on going. But the side effects: costly rehab and loss of family members to rehab or not. Limits working to support. Now a community cost of rehab. And on it goes. With welfare upkeep to the families who lose their breadwinner, a cost to all through taxes. Just an observation for sure!



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