Pot zoning bylaw proposal gets hearing in Phillipston

  • About two dozen people attended a hearing on proposed retail marijuana zoning regulations held Monday by Phillipston’s Planning Board. (Seated around table/desk l-r) Board members John Telepciak, Vern Lussier, Gordon Robinson, Wayne Richard, and Chair Bernie Malouin. GREG VINE

  • About two dozen people attended a hearing on proposed retail marijuana zoning regulations held Monday by Phillipston’s Planning Board. (Seated around table/desk l-r) Board members John Telepciak, Vern Lussier, Gordon Robinson, Wayne Richard, and Chair Bernie Malouin. GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 4/23/2019 9:50:16 PM
Modified: 4/23/2019 9:50:14 PM

PHILLIPSTON — About two dozen people crowded the meeting room at the Phillipston Town Hall Monday night to discuss a proposed zoning bylaw governing retail marijuana businesses and other types of cannabis-related operations, including cultivation and manufacturing. The town has already enacted zoning covering medical marijuana dispensaries.

Many of those in attendance were residents of the Baldwin Hill Road area. Several had received a letter stating that a partnership interested in opening a recreational/medical marijuana business has signed a purchase and sales agreement for a parcel of land at the corner of Baldwin Hill Road and Route 2A. The letter was signed by Damon Schmidt, who has signed a host community agreement to open a cannabis cultivation facility in Royalston.

However, at the start of the hearing, Planning Board Chair Bernie Malouin emphasized the hearing had “nothing to do with any project that is proposed right now.”

“They have to go through a different avenue,” he said. “There is nothing proposed right now. There was some discussion that someone might want to open up a facility, but right now it’s just hearsay. What we’re trying to do is simply specify an area where people can do those types of activities. We don’t want them going off onto side roads, so we decided it should be along the Route 2A corridor and only so many feet from the road.”

Board member Wayne Richard explained that the town had to allow for retail cannabis businesses because Phillipston residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of the November 2016 state referendum calling for the legalization of marijuana. The official town vote on Question 4 was 611-412, or nearly 60 percent in favor, 40 percent opposed.

“Keep in mind if we don’t do this,” said Malouin, “they’re pretty much open to go wherever they want. So, we’re trying to put them in the same area as the medical marijuana.”

Despite Malouin’s opening admonition, several residents wanted to talk specifically about the Baldwin Hill Road/Route 2A location.

Toni Budrick asked about the possibility of creating turn lanes on 2A to accommodate traffic that may be entering or exiting a business at the corner.

“This has nothing to do with any hearsay about something happening on that lot,” Malouin again emphasized. “That may happen, it may not. There’s no building permit for that, there’s no site plan, there’s nothing from the selectmen that I’m aware of. I’ve heard the same thing, but there’s nothing official as we speak.”

Cassie Foley, a lifelong resident of Baldwin Hill Road, said she had concerns about the zoning bylaw’s proposed restriction limiting marijuana establishments to no less than 300 feet from places where children congregate.

“The Cannabis Control Commission suggestion,” she said, “is that that should be 500 feet. The town has decreased that, which I think puts youth at risk. I also would like to point out that the town’s zoning ordinance in terms of adult establishments – which is an (age) 18-plus establishment – has stricter zoning laws at 1,000 feet from schools or places where children congregate.”

“I think there’s a huge discrepancy between 300 feet for something that’s 21-plus, versus something that’s 1,000 feet for something that’s 18-plus,” she said. “I think the town should consider increasing the zoning on marijuana.”

“When we expose youth to drugs and alcohol in their community,” said Foley, who works in substance abuse prevention for LUK Crisis Center in Fitchburg, “they’re more likely to use, and they’re four times more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder.”

Malouin suggested the town move ahead with the 300-foot restriction, with an eye toward amending both the medical and recreational cannabis restriction to 500 feet at a later date. He did, however, say he would run the question past the town’s legal counsel.

In the meantime, Phillipston selectmen are scheduled to speak with Atty. Katie Laughman from the town’s law firm of Kopelman & Paige regarding marijuana regulations at their regular meeting Wednesday night.

Phillipston voters will consider the proposed zoning regulations at the annual town meeting on May 8.


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