Public absent at Naples pot moratorium hearing

 

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — The public was mum on the marijuana moratorium.

In fact, nobody spoke during the public hearing on the recreational-use marijuana moratorium that was on the agenda of the Naples Planning Board on Tuesday.

After a few changes to the draft, the moratorium will become a warrant article at the annual town meeting on June 9. Essentially, in January, the Naples Board of Selectmen voted that the moratorium would be in effect retroactively pending passage at the town meeting. If passed by residents at that time, the moratorium will be valid for another 180 days from the town meeting date, according to Naples Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Renee Carter.

This moratorium pertains to recreational-use pot only and does not have anything to do with the medical marijuana industry, which is controlled by the state, Carter said.

On Tuesday, the planning board made some changes to the language of the moratorium, which had been provided by the town’s legal counsel.

One change is that the board specified that the most appropriate place for a growing operation is in the light manufacturing zone, which is located from Route 11 to the Village District, according to Carter.

Chairman Larry Anton introduced a motion to “change this moratorium to include wholesale growing and processing as part of” what is forbidden by the moratorium.

Also, as suggested by Planning Board member Jim Krainin, the language about marijuana causing serious public harm was stricken.

The board voted in favor of the moratorium with Doug Bogdan opposing. Bogdan said the Town of Naples should be more business-friendly and not discriminate against the type of business.

As it stands, the Maine Legislature is still finetuning the recreational-use marijuana law that was passed at the ballot during the November 2017 election.

According to Carter, the town has been keeping an eye on the progress of that law.

Concerns like having growing operations near a school or church are echoed by many towns and are expected to be addressed on the state level.

Still, it has been a waiting game. Much hinges on the legislature’s decisions.

According to Carter, having the moratorium in place tells potential recreational pot businesses that the town is looking at where such ventures should be located.

Renee Carter: “I have quite a few questions from people who want to open a retail smoke shop. They will know that the town is really looking at it,” Carter said.

People call the code enforcement department and ask if they should purchase property for this business endeavor, and her reply is no, Carter said.

“What we don’t want people to do is to go out and buy property for it. With the moratorium, it will tell people we are seriously looking at it,” she said.

Anton agreed.

“We are saying that we cannot do anything right now. It is being put on hold. We have to close that gap that says you can do anything you want agriculturally in the town,” he said.

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