WAREHAM — Two articles for the Spring Town Meeting brought a standing-room-only crowd to the Planning Board’s Monday night meeting — drive-through restaurants in town and marijuana restrictions.
After two hours of public testimony, almost all of it on these two issues, the Planning Board decided to allow drive-through restaurants, with restrictions and placed restrictions on retail marijuana establishments.
On drive-throughs, the board’s main concern was traffic flow from the restaurants and into traffic, and Planning Board Director Kenneth Buckland recommended against putting the drive-throughs into either Onset Village or Wareham Village, due to pedestrian traffic. The board agreed.
Other restrictions include internal circulation that is safe for both cars and pedestrians, with well-defined lanes; sites must have adequate space for cars entering and in line, and for vehicles exiting in a line; trash receptacles must be available for disposal from vehicles; and there must be no direct entrance or exit onto or from a state highway.
Nancy McHale of the Wareham Land Trust asked the board to keep in mind the amount of business already on Tobey Road, where there is a proposal for a drive-through restaurant. "I want to bring up issues on Tobey Road," said McHale, "it's a mess. No more curb cuts. There are plenty of spaces where restaurants could go. We need to make the area livable for the people that live there."
The marijuana restrictions that were proposed for the article come in two parts: first, for a 3 percent tax on all retail sales; second, for no more than three retail recreational marijuana shops in town, separated by at least 1,500 feet, and restricted to industrial, institutional and commercial strip areas.
There were several people who spoke against having marijuana retail shops in the town, but Buckland pointed out that since the town had voted in majority for marijuana on the referendum issue in 2016, “we have some limits on what we can do with the bylaws.”
Board of Health member Catherine Phinney, a nurse, said she was concerned about retail shops making it more likely that the marijuana winds up in the hands of children.
“It is a gateway drug," said Phinney. "Who is watching the hen house on this? I don't think we will ever gain in taxes what this (legalization of marijuana) will cost us."
There were also requests to extend out the zone for retail marijuana stores to cover more of the town.
Planning Board Chairman George Barrett reminded the crowd that application deadlines for retail marijuana establishments is April 1. “We are looking to map out buffer zones in town, and especially keeping these shops a distance from where children are. If the town wants to expand the number at some time in the future, then they can do so. But we feel it would be prudent at this time to regulate where these establishments can go.”
“I think this is a good start,” he said.
There is a special town meeting on marijuana scheduled for March 12.