Planning Board Backs Three-License Cap For Retail Marijuana Establishments

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Marijuana

Chatham voters will address bylaws to ban retail sales of marijuana at May's annual town meeting. FILE PHOTO

ORLEANS The planning board voted last week to maintain a maximum of three recreational marijuana retail establishments in a proposed zoning bylaw amendment. Other options included four, which would be half of the number of liquor stores in town, or eight, the latter as recommended by the board of selectmen.

“I'd like to see us walk before we run,” said member Tom Johnson, an adamant advocate of the lower number. “I support this new industry, but it is a new industry for a product that was illegal four months ago.”


Noting how a community becomes known for concentrations of offerings, such as restaurants, vice chair Chet Crabtree said he was “not ready for Orleans to be the marijuana retail capital of Cape Cod. I'm very comfortable with three as the starting place.”

Members Chip Bechtold and Richard Hartmann joined Crabtree and Johnson to keep the number at three, with chair Andrea Reed abstaining.

“The board of selectmen seems very comfortable with parity with (the number of) liquor licenses,” she said before the vote. “This board seems uncomfortable.” She said a limit of four would support an argument for “testing the waters” and allow for “growth and control,” and suggested the higher number would give selectmen “some leverage to negotiate host community agreements.”

Selectmen Kevin Galligan was asked to explain his board's recommendation of eight licenses. He suggested that an avalanche of applicants was unlikely.

“Through some of my energy consulting business, I actually do know the cost of investing in these,” he said. “There are a few going through the process on Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard. The hurdles to enter this marketplace are ginormous; just the lighting alone would knock your socks off.”

The board adopted a recommendation by associate member Brian Sosner that each of the three licenses be held by “an unrelated licensed entity.”

“I think this makes sense,” Johnson said. “Considering the financial hurdles, it may be unlikely but possible some deep pocket could try to buy up all three and get a monopoly, in a sense.”

On the issue of increasing potential uses in the village center, the board was unanimous in maintaining some restrictions there.

“We recognize that we're over-zoned for commercial properties in the village center and want to concentrate on developing more housing,” Bechtold said. “I admit that restricting (some) marijuana facilities from the village center is sort of contradictory to trying to fill commercial spaces, but I don't see the village center as a good place to put these other than retail.” The current proposal also allows research and testing businesses in the village center.

Associate member Debra Oakes was concerned about “the vibrancy of the village center. As you create gaps in first-floor retail...(you have) all these dark holes where you're trying to encourage walkable, active street life,” she said. Johnson worried that entities interested in developing affordable housing in the center could lose out in competition for sites.

Galligan said the selectmen were recommending that the village center be open to more uses. “From a personal standpoint,” he said, he sees the area as “a robust, active town center that wants to embrace many activities.” He added that another selectmen had been concerned that limiting uses in the village center might lead to sprawl elsewhere.

Noting that one of the additional uses, a microbusiness, can have up to 2,000 pounds of product for manufacturing, processing and transport, Sosner said that “just seems an inappropriate use for the village center district. If we've allowed that kind of activity in Limited Business, General Business, and Industrial, that just seems a better place to put it.”

The board voted unanimously to move forward a second zoning bylaw amendment without a recommendation. The measure would allow small-scale cultivation in almost all districts, including residential. The proposal was informed by the existence of the town's variety of small farms in residential neighborhoods.

Hartmann said security requirements for marijuana cultivation appeared contradictory in a residential setting. “I do think it's up to the voters,” he said. “There's quite a bit to it that significantly impacts 90 percent of people in this town if people do decide to cultivate residentially.”

The town does not allow businesses per se in residential areas, said Hartmann, but does allow farming by right. That occupation, he said, is defined as “normally accepted cultural practices.” When it comes to marijuana cultivation, he's “really hung up on the security thing that doesn't make it normal. This is not an anti-farmer thing, it's a pro-resident thing.”

Reed was reminded of the board's recent discussion of storage of fishing boats and gear in residential neighborhoods. “Some people say, 'Please, not in my next yard.' Others value tradition,” she said. “I want us to be as broadminded as possible. Fifty years from now (will it seem) that we have stood on the neck of agriculture in this town? We can say wait until it's classified as agriculture. Our job is to balance between preservation and progress.”

Noting that he would vote against the zoning amendment at town meeting, Bechtold made the motion to move it forward without a recommendation at this time. “I think the residents of the town need the opportunity to decide for themselves,” he said.


Petition Seeks To Ban Retail Marijuana Sales

ORLEANS There will be a third article dealing with marijuana at the Oct. 29 special town meeting. A proposed bylaw that would prohibit retail sale of marijuana was checked in at the selectmen's office Sept. 14, hours before the warrant closed. Steve Bornemeier, a former planning board member, and others gathered more than 150 signatures in support, more than the required 100; those have since been certified by the town clerk. The prohibition would not apply to medical marijuana sales, distribution or cultivation.

“There is a groundswell of Orleans residents who feel that retail marijuana sales are wholly inconsistent with the values and character of this small seaside town,” Bornemeier said in an interview Tuesday. “That's the purpose of this warrant article: to give voice to those residents who feel so strongly about this.”

The article is not intended to address all eight separate uses, such as cultivation and transportation, according to Bornemeier. “It's just to address the strong feeling that marijuana retailers would be inconsistent with the character of Orleans,” he said. Such a business “is not a reflection of our values and a desire for place where young children grow up without that kind of temptation or exposure. That's not to say this will not be available elsewhere on the Cape. This is not a part of the culture of Orleans.”

At last May's annual town meeting, voters rejected a ban on recreational sales and cultivation by 150 to 80. They also said no to an extension of a moratorium on retail marijuana establishments (111 to 94).

“All the voters have ever done, including the time (the town) voted against the state (ballot question legalizing sales), is to decline to approve this,” Bornemeier said. “There's never been any mandate or favorable outcome of any issue before them. I think it's wrong to say we're going against any trend. The voters have declined to do anything about this issue.”

Bornemeier emphasized the proposed amendment is focused solely on retail sales. “This does not address other features of the law,” he said.

The selectmen planned to vote on special town meeting warrant articles at their meeting last night (Sept. 19).