Bridgton to seek moratorium on medical marijuana storefronts; selectmen meeting notes

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

As Maine continues to wrestle with rules regarding marijuana use, Bridgton officials want some time to figure out what best suits this town.

Senate and House members voted Tuesday in favor of a medical marijuana reform bill that would allow caregivers to expand their business operations.

With three medical marijuana growing sites in Bridgton, Planning Board members proposed to selectmen Tuesday night to seek a moratorium on retail caregiver storefronts.

“No specific regulations governing such retail stores exist under the town’s ordinances,” the moratorium ordinance reads. “The town’s ordinances are insufficient to prevent serious public harm that could result from the unregulated siting and operation of such retail stores within the town.”

One question is compatibility “of such retail stores with existing and permitted land uses in the town,” the ordinance adds.

The moratorium on siting, operation or licensing of any medical marijuana storefronts within the town includes applications for a medical marijuana storefront or any pending proposal submitted on or after June 11.

Selectmen instructed Town Clerk Laurie Chadbourne to schedule a special town meeting on “the nearest date available.” Chadbourne said the earliest a meeting could be held would be either mid-September or early October to allow time for ballots to be created and meet state regulations, such as 30 days to submit absentee ballots and proper public postings.

If voters approve the measure, the moratorium is in effect a period of 180 days.

Selectmen also instructed the Planning Board to initiate a public process to prepare an ordinance to regulate medical and adult use marijuana operations and establishments.

In other business,

Store too busy? Town Manager Bob Peabody usually doesn’t like to pass along unsigned letters from disgruntled residents to selectmen.

“If a person has an opinion and wants the board to hear it, they should sign it,” he said.

Peabody, however, felt selectmen should review a letter regarding the board’s decision to allow out-of-town residents to shop at the Transfer Station’s store.

The letter writer said, “It is getting to the point, especially on weekends, that it’s sometimes difficult to find a place to park and to get in and out of the transfer station because there are so many people there. Unsupervised small children run around the store, throw toys, etc.”

The writer emphasized “this is no way a criticism of management and staff at the transfer station. I have always found most employees to be courteous and helpful.”

The writer added, “Most of the items left in the store are unsellable…and have to be thrown away. What is actually decent should be available for purchase to Bridgton residents with valid stickers for the transfer station. The idea that more people brings money makes no sense, it brings more confusion and liability. If an item is sellable, it will sell to a Bridgton resident if given the opportunity…It is also very annoying to Bridgton residents to deal with the out-of-town circus that has been going on for quite a while now and is just getting worse.”

Bridgton generates about $12,000 annually from the sale of stickers and about $25,000 from the sale of items from the store.

Selectmen did not discuss the letter, but voted to accept it and place it on file.

Not backing down. Selectmen strongly disagree with a Maine Department of Transportation report that a traffic light is not needed at the intersection of Sandy Creek Road (Route 117) and Portland Road (Route 302). One outcome was that “there were not enough left turns” made during the daily count.

Local officials questioned the validity of the decision, citing when the count was done (time of year as well as day in the week). Selectmen instructed the town manager to send DOT, as well as local state representatives and senators, a letter requesting another look. Selectman Bear Zaidman also asked for DOT to identify the number of fatal collisions at the intersection over the past 15 years.

Too long a walk? Some residents certainly dislike having to make a much longer trek from a parking space to the beachfront at Salmon Point, and they made that feeling known to new Selectman Carmen Lone.

Lone checked out the new “upper” parking lot and the path leading to the town’s beach. She agreed with those residents she spoke with — one being an older woman with MS and a young mother “with another one on the way.”

Lone also heard nearby residents complaining about the traffic near their private properties, as well as noise.

“We’re upsetting two groups of people,” said Lone in regards to the new parking setup.

She brought the issue to the board immediately since selectmen gave Salmon Point Campground manager Bob Morse approval at their last meeting to construct a gaming and seating area in the space previously used for public parking — just in case officials decided to reverse their decision.

Town Manager Bob Peabody noted that the new parking lot and walking path are both on town property, and selectmen had pushed for the campground to be run like a business. Various changes were made to increase campground use.

“Four years ago, we advertised and still couldn’t keep the campground full,” Peabody said. “Now, there is no vacancy and we have a healthy waiting list.”

Revenue from campground rental helps push $30,000 into the Rec Department budget.

New Selectman Lee Eastman spoke with Morse, who said if a person has a disability, there are a few parking spaces closer to the beach or that a conversation could resolve some issues.

Lone noted she was simply passing a concern along to the board, and added the current setup “is not a good situation” and “limiting access to beachgoers is not very friendly.”

Reorganization. Lee Eastman didn’t get much time to settle in his seat at the selectmen’s table. As the first matter of business, selectmen unanimously elected Eastman as the group’s chairman. There were no other nominations.

“Now that the railroad is over,” joked the new member of the board who moved to the seat to the far left of the table next to Town Manager Bob Peabody, Eastman entertained a motion for vice chairman. Bear Zaidman was unanimously approved. He was the lone nominee.

Eastman and Carmen Lone were recently elected to the board, replacing Greg Watkins (who declined seeking re-election) and Bob McHatton (who failed in his re-election bid).

Selectmen will continue to meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5 p.m.

Hours changed. Effective July 5, the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ mobile unit will be at the Bridgton Municipal Complex’s lower level on the first and last Thursday and second Tuesday of each month from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — note the time change.

Burn permits are required for certain outside fires and are easily acquired at www.burningpermit.com at no charge. Permits will not be issued above a “medium” classification.

Thanks for manual. BFD thanks Chief Andy Dufresne of the Fryeburg Fire Department for the donation of five International Fire Service Training Association’s “Essentials of Fire Fighting, Sixth Edition” manuals. Bridgton Fire Chief Steve Fay noted that these books are “brand new,” meet the requirements for NFPA 101 Standards, and are an integral part of the modernization program toward training.

Night Out. The Bridgton Police Department will once again take part in the National Night Out effort on Aug. 7 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Harmon Field. The community-building campaign to enhance relationships between citizens, police and fire personnel is open for people of all ages. It includes a cookout, safety demonstrations, exhibits and games.

New additions. Brogan Horton has been named Bridgton’s new Animal Control Officer, while Diane Paul was approved by selectmen Tuesday night as the town’s new Health Officer.

Resignations. Selectmen accepted resignations by Carmon Lone as chairman of the Community Development Committee. “It has been an amazing adventure participating with and (being) on this committee. The work that the CDC does is relevant and important,” she wrote. “It has been a pleasure and an education listening to the people, past and present, who serve the town of Bridgton on this committee.”

Ken Gibbs, as an alternate to the Planning Board. He was recently elected as a regular member. Selectmen filled the vacancy by approving Diane Paul as an alternate until June 2019.

Drew Robbins, as a member of the Ordinance Review Committee.

Lifeguards are now stationed at Highland Lake Beach.

Youth soccer registration for the fall has started at Bridgton Rec. For more information on summer rec programs and fall youth soccer, refer to the website at: www.bridgtonmaine.org

Ice cream on move. Selectmen approved a victualer’s license to Jerry Sterritt of Exeter, N.H. (doing business as North East Ice Cream) to operate a mobile ice cream truck.

Next meeting: The next Bridgton selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for July 10 at 5 p.m.

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