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Proposal to delay release of agendas postponed

Rockland Council gives green light to downtown marijuana shops

By Stephen Betts | Feb 11, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts The Rockland City Council gave initial approval Feb. 10 to allowing retail marijuana stores downtown.

Rockland — The Rockland City Council gave preliminary approval Monday night to allowing retail marijuana stores downtown despite a November 2018 non-binding referendum to the contrary.

The City Council took an initial vote at its Feb. 10 meeting to an ordinance regulating marijuana businesses. A final vote is scheduled for March 9.

The ordinance will limit the number of stores to six in the city and no more than three could be located in any single zone -- such as commercial, or plaza.

The four businesses that already received planning board approval for medical marijuana businesses would get the first shot at four of the six retail slots.

The two remaining retail slots would be awarded based on a lottery system.

Mark Benjamin of Camden suggested that if the city were to implement a lottery system, businesses with little interest in coming to Rockland may still enter the lottery. He said this could result in a flood of businesses that have no serious interest. He said businesses should have at least a signed lease or a significant investment before being allowed to enter a lottery.

Benjamin said he represents a company, Botany, that wants to operate recreational marijuana businesses. He said after the meeting that the company is interested in opening a store in downtown Rockland.

City Councilor Ed Glaser pointed out that before a business could apply to the Rockland Planning Board, it would need a committed location.

Glaser voted against allowing adult retail marijuana stores downtown. He said if the council wanted to allow it downtown, it should ask for voter approval.

The vote Feb. 10 was 3-1 to allow the downtown retail stores. Councilor Nate Davis was absent while Councilors Valli Geiger and Benjamin Dorr and Mayor Lisa Westkaemper voted for the ordinance.

Voters said no in a 2018 referendum allowing adult recreational marijuana stores in the downtown by a 1,610 to 1,282 tally (56% to 44%). But they said they would support recreational marijuana stores elsewhere in the city by a 1,670 to 1,240 tally (57% to 43%).

The Rockland Planning Board has approved four medical marijuana stores.

Scrimshaw at 500 Main St. received approval in 2018 from the board. The store opened last year.

Highbrow at 696 Main St., the former site of a C.N. Brown gas station, was approved by the board Oct. 1, 2019.

Dirigo Medical CBD at 270 Park St., which had formerly been used by Midcoast Children's Services, and before that, by Grace Bible Fellowship, got approval Oct. 15, 2019.

On Nov. 19, 2019, the board approved the proposal by Nancy Shaw of Swanville and her business New World Organics at the former Bicknell Manufacturing building on Lime Street.

Maine residents chose to legalize recreational marijuana in a 2016 public vote. It has taken three years for rules to be developed.

The first state licenses are expected to be issued in the spring.

Agendas

The Rockland City Council agreed Feb. 10 to postpone action on a proposal to delay the public release of considered items for their upcoming meetings.

Councilor Valli Geiger said she was surprised by the opposition to the proposed change.

Councilors Ed Glaser and Benjamin Dorr asked for a postponement until March to work out concerns raised by the public. They said if there was not a postponement, they would vote against the change.

Currently, the deadline for councilors to submit items to the city clerk's office to be included on the regular Monday meeting agendas is Wednesday at noon. Once those items are submitted to the clerk, they become public documents and are available for public inspection.

The Courier-Gazette routinely reviews agenda items before the formal release of the agendas on Friday afternoons for the following Monday meetings.

Under the ordinance amendment being proposed, agenda items could not be released to the public until the complete agenda packet is sent out to councilors on Friday afternoons -- a delay of two days. Agendas are delivered to City Councilors by police officers.

Councilor Valli Geiger said at the Feb. 3 meeting that this would prevent councilors from getting calls on things they are not aware have been proposed for the agenda.

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Comments (5)
Posted by: Robert Waterman | Feb 21, 2020 13:24

Rockland can soon change their orange light post signs from "the arts capital of Maine" to "the arts and pot capital of Maine."



Posted by: johanna stadler | Feb 12, 2020 15:02

about time.. it was the will of the majority of maine voters.  A choice few can't change the law to fit their views.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Feb 11, 2020 14:12

The councilors talk about what will be on the agenda, yet they have to wait for the delivery of the packets to know what is on the agenda? Maybe they ought to pay more attention and take a few notes at these meetings.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Feb 11, 2020 10:04

Yes George and I both would love to hear from those councilors who seemed to know better than those they represent.  Again thanks to ed Glaser for being the sole voice of reason on the council



Posted by: George Terrien | Feb 11, 2020 08:51

I am curious to learn the reasons that persuaded those three members of the Council to reverse the public will we clearly expressed (the vote was not what I would call close) in the 2018 referendum.  But maybe I am alone.  Even so, I express my appreciation to Councilor Glaser for trying to refresh the memories of the other members of the Council.



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