LAKEVILLE — The Planning Board will not be recommending that voters at the June 4 town meeting adopt a proposed zoning bylaw amendment that would allow recreational marijuana producers to open up retail shops in Lakeville’s industrial zones.
After a lengthy debate over the issue at a May 10 public hearing on three possible zoning bylaw changes proposed by the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board voted 4-0 against recommending the amendment which would allow “adult use” recreational marijuana producers to seek special permits for retail stores and delivery services.
Under the proposed bylaw change headed to town meeting, the Planning Board would be the special permit granting authority for recreational pot stores in the half-dozen industrial zones in town; the change does not include the special Industrial-B zone in the west end of town.
The vote came after a number of business owners in the Lakeville Industrial Park stated their opposition to having recreational sales facilities in the neighborhood. Members cited traffic concerns and the opposition of business owners in the park as the reasons for their decision.
Agreements to permit medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation, processing, and testing facilities in industrial zones are already allowed by zoning regulations, and community host agreements are being negotiated by selectmen with two companies proposing medical cultivation and retail sales establishments in the industrial park.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will not consider special permits for either proposed medical marijuana dispensary until the community host agreements have been signed by selectmen. The agreements are required for final approval of the dispensary licenses by the state.
Both of those local medical marijuana dispensary license applicants have indicated they would also seek recreational sales facilities permits from the town if the zoning bylaws are changed.
In separate votes at the end of the public hearing, the Planning Board did support zoning amendments which would allow adult recreational marijuana growing, product manufacturing, and testing and research facilities in industrial zones by special permit after site plan approval by the board.
In line with state law, the companion article proposing adding such facilities to the “permitted uses” in industrial districts bans the allowed operations from being located within 500 feet of schools. It also requires a 50-foot buffer zone be maintained from neighboring businesses, and compliance with other setback, lot coverage, and parking area requirements in the bylaws.
The bylaw amendment also allows the Planning Board to set hours of operation, establish odor control measures, and include the required security and emergency plans recommended by the police and fire departments into the conditions issued for any special permits.
Dick Nichols, owner of a business located at 305 Kenneth Welch Drive, across the street from one proposed medical marijuana dispensary and grow facility, said the projected 30 to 40 cars per hours which would visit a typical recreational pot store “is just way too much traffic” for the park’s already busy roadways.
With hundreds of cars and trucks already using the park roads every day, “Kenneth Welch Drive is just no place to have it,” he said of a potential high-traffic retail operation.
Another business owner in the park, Chuck Evirs, questioned why town meeting was being asked to adopt recreational marijuana licensing regulations when “the town voted against supporting recreational marijuana” in a ballot referendum question.
“Everyone seems to be extremely focused on Kenneth Welch Drive for medical marijuana and recreational marijuana,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a great spot.”
Planning Board Chair Brian Hoeg explained that without zoning regulations in place for such businesses, “it could be put anywhere in town” where other retail businesses are allowed. That opinion was challenged by some in the audience, but confirmed by Town Administrator Rita Garbitt.
Without a recreational marijuana bylaw in place, “if you have medical (business regulations), recreational can be in any zone where there are retail sales allowed,” Garbitt said of provisions of state law governing local licensing.
Planning Board member Stanley Zienkiewicz suggested that Kenneth Welch Drive was not being singled out for proposed recreational marijuana businesses. Under the proposed bylaw, such businesses “can go in any industrial zone” if the article passes town meeting, he noted.
In addition to the industrial park, “it could go near the train station, on Harding Street (Route 44), and other industrial zones,” he explained. In general, he said he feels retail stores for recreational pot was just “the wrong thing for this town,” but the final decision rests with town meeting.
If the zoning changes do not pass at town meeting, selectmen have indicated they would not negotiate the required community host agreements with recreational pot retailers, it was noted at a public forum held by selectmen last month. There, public opinion was split about 50-50 in favor and opposed to recreational marijuana businesses being allowed in town.
Alex Mazin of Trichome Health, one of the medical marijuana license applicants seeking to locate in the industrial park, urged an endorsement of recreational marijuana regulations for industrial zones. He suggested “it would make little sense to have recreational marijuana cultivation and sales facilities located somewhere else” in town other than where medical marijuana businesses are located.
Mazin said recreational grow facilities and retail sales would only add to the revenues the town will be receiving from medical marijuana businesses, estimated at as much as $1 million per year. Evirs urged the Planning Board and voters “not to let the dollars cloud your decisions” on recreational sales regulations.
Board member Janice Swanson said she was also opposed to retail stores for recreational marijuana on general principles, but appreciated selectmen’s putting the potential bylaw changes because of the potential revenues involved.
But no matter what town officials decide to recommend, the decision will ultimately be up to town meeting voters, she noted.