Selectmen and members of the Planning Board have proposed regulations for potential recreational marijuana retailers in town.
At a joint discussion of the boards, which took place as part of the Jan. 16 Board of Selectmen meeting, participants agreed marijuana sales in town were not something they wished to encourage.
Town counsel Stephen Madaus, of Mirick O’Connell, told the boards that because the town had voted against legalizing recreational marijuana, they had two options. First, they could ban marijuana shops altogether, which would require passage of a bylaw at town meeting. Failing that, they could regulate the location of any shops, also requiring passage of a bylaw at town meeting.
“Prohibition could be sustainable,” Madaus said, in light of the town’s vote in the state election.
William Manter, vice chairman of the Planning Board, said the town could create a specific zone for marijuana retailers.
“As was done with medical, we could zone it to a very small place,” Manter said.
Several attendees suggested putting a bylaw banning marijuana sales on the next town meeting warrant.
Selectman James Underwood was concerned that if the item should fail, they would not have a backup plan.
“If we wait (to create a zoning plan), we could get someone in a retail zone,” Underwood said.
Madaus confirmed that could happen, because it would be an allowed use in a retail area.
Selectman James Wood advocated a two-pronged approach.
“We put the (prohibition) article on the warrant, followed by a backup article to regulate” if the ban fails, Wood said.
The group agreed that would be a feasible approach. The Board of Selectmen and town counsel agreed to work out the wording for the proposed bylaw banning marijuana shops, and the Planning Board agreed to work on the secondary zoning proposal.
The board heard complaints from neighbors of Elmer’s Seat at Pleasant Hill, a 7-acre parcel owned by the Greater Worcester Land Trust (GWLT).
Laurie Levy, a member of the homeowners’ association of the neighborhood development surrounding Elmer’s Seat, said people have been camping on the property, and campfires have been seen.
She said the GWLT had been unresponsive, even after she sent a registered letter to Colin Novick, executive director of GWLT, last summer.
Underwood was cautious about getting involved in a quarrel between two private entities.
“We are behind you, but I have to say I’m very concerned about getting into something like this, as a (town) government issue,” Underwood said.
He also said he had called Novick, who had told him campers had to have a signed letter from GWLT in order to camp on any of their properties. Underwood said Novick had also assured him that he would not sign any such letters for Elmer’s Seat.
“That’s great,” said Levy, “but I’d like to see that in writing.”
Selectman Michael May suggested there might be a land swap possibility, and Underwood again cautioned against board involvement.
May advised Levy to “ramp up” the pressure on GWLT to meet face-to-face.
Levy and two other representatives of the homeowners’ association in attendance agreed.
Underwood said he would be happy to help negotiate a solution, short of board interference.
The board did agree to contact the zoning board about the placement of the sign at Elmer’s Seat, which Levy said is not in compliance with town regulations.