By Beth David, Editor
Members of the public attended the Fairhaven Planning Board’s hearing on 10/9/18 on the proposed marijuana zoning bylaw that will be submitted to Town Meeting members for a vote on 11/13.
Mostly the same group of individuals who have voiced opposition to the bylaw again made their case for pushing an extension of the moratorium on recreational marijuana retail shops in Fairhaven. The group hopes to extend the moratorium long enough for a townwide vote in the April election, so they can ban pot shops in town completely.
Because voters in Fairhaven voted to approve recreational marijuana in the November 2016 vote, the town can only ban shops with another town-wide vote. A citizen petition, however, would not be binding, and the Selectboard has voted not to put the question to voters.
Meanwhile, a moratorium extension will be on the warrant for the 11/13 Special TM, and the PB has been continuing its work to draft a bylaw that would regulate retail marijuana shops in town.
Fairhaven already has a medical marijuana facility. The proposed bylaw would create an overlay district that is the same as the overlay district created for medical marijuana.
The new bylaw would replace the old one and includes both medical and recreational marijuana.
Vice Chair John Farrell ran the meeting because chairperson Wayne Hayward was absent. Mr. Hayward has since confirmed with the Neighb News that he has stepped down as chairperson of the board.
During the hearing, several residents spoke against allowing retail marijuana in Fairhaven, which much of the discussion revolving around the fact that the board had no jurisdiction to stop pot shops from opening up.
The board is tasked with creating regulations for the shops, which have already been approved.
Residents who want a moratorium said, again and again, that voters did not specifically vote on placing retail shops in town.
Mr. Farrell reiterated that the moratorium extension may not pass, and, therefore, the town had to be ready with regulations in place when it expires on 12/31/18.
PB member Ann Richard read several letters supporting the bylaw and supporting the regulated operation of retail marijuana in Fairhaven. She said she received no letters against the measure.
The bylaws creates a Special Permit structure that would regulate pot shops in Fairhaven, giving the board wide latitude to add more restrictions on the shops.
Residents seemed to get stuck on the word “delivery” for a bit, with Director of Planning and Economic Development, Gloria McPherson, explaining it mean people driving the product to deliver it, like pizza places do, and some residents thinking it meant administering the drug on site.
Residents noted that marijuana is still illegal on the federal level.
Cathy Delano said pot shops would be an added burden to police, fire, and other services.
“So I take exception to the word ‘safety’ in your premise,” she said, pointing to the bylaw language.
Karen Vilandry said that she had no problem with medical marijuana, but was against recreational retail shops in Fairhaven. She asked who drafted the bylaw, who was on the ad-hoc committee, and if the committee used information from other towns.
Mr. Farrell noted that there was not really any data from other towns because no retail shops have yet opened up in Mass.
Ms. Vilandry said the town should not rush into anything.
Mr. Farrell said they have been working on it for months and that the board was responding to something that already passed statewide.
“It’s here,” he said. “It’s already here.”
“So why can’t we respond to it by banning it,” asked Ms. Vilandry.
After a bit of back and forth, Ms. Vilandry said, “Any intelligent person would agree we need to extend the moratorium.”
Bernard Rodericks said he simply wanted time for a ballot question to clarify that people who voted to approve recreational marijuana knew they were approving it in Fairhaven.
Tim Keogh, who is on the board at Bask, the medical marijuana facility in Fairhaven, read off a list of regulations and statistics related to his business.
He said prohibition does not work, as proven with alcohol and with marijuana’s history in the country.
“Regulation works,” he said.
He noted that the business renovated an old building and hired local people in good jobs. He also offered to give tours to anyone who asked. He got a round of applause.
“Too bad most of those statements are erroneous,” said Ms. Delano.
And so it went, back and forth.
PB member Cathy Melanson noted that the board had held a lot of meetings over a long period of time, going over every line and every word of the draft bylaw.
Shane Sher was a voice not heard in recent meetings.
“We have plenty of other things that are addictive,” said Mr. Sher, noting alcohol and chocolate among them.
After much more wrangling over language and issues that have mostly been discussed before, the board voted unanimously to approve the language in the bylaw with some amendments suggested that night.
The board will hold another public hearing to discuss the marijuana bylaw, the moratorium extension, and the Rogers School re-zoning bylaw on November 1 for placement of all of them on the warrant for the Special Town Meeting on 11/13. The board is also scheduled to meet on 10/23, but an agenda has not yet been posted for that meeting.
The draft marijuana bylaw is available on the town’s website at: https://www. fairhaven-ma.gov/sites/ fairhavenma/files/news/marijuana_ zoning_10-3-18.pdf
In other business, the board also approved changes at 24 Water Street and 7 Union Wharf, Old South Wharf Realty LLC and Casey Boat Yard LLC, for new construction and site layout changes. Applicant Kevin McClaughlin reluctantly made changes to his original proposal to be able to move forward on a hearing that was continued from September 25.
The changes include demolishing four buildings totalling 34,522 square feet, and constructing three new buildings totalling 28,560 square feet.
The plan, however, also calls for eliminating or moving some parking spaces.
Part of the problem, said Mr. McLaughlin, is that he needs the flexibility to temporarily store construction materials in some places that have parking. He wants people to be able to park in other places on the property.
The company actually has more lined parking than it needs, but people still need to use the lined spots, said Director of Planning and Economic Development, Gloria McPherson. She said the problem is safety. The company should only allow parking in striped spaces.
The changes also included adjustments to the size of plantings designed to be a buffer between the property and the street.
Mr. McLaughlin made it clear to the board that he was not happy that he had to make the changes, but said he needed to get the work going. He reiterated his oft-cited assertion that the shipyard has been operating for decades, and only in recent years have neighbors and the town been complaining about its natural operations. He noted that the shipyard was a large employer in town, paid “signficant taxes,” and contributed to the overall economy of Fairhaven.
He pushed back against the parking and the buffer.
“I don’t want to limit myself,” said Mr. McLaughlin.
Planning Board member Jeffrey Lucas noted that if they allowed too much of a break, then they would be faced with other businesses expecting the same thing.
“If I don’t make you do it, it’s hard to make other people do it,” said Mr. Lucas.
“I think I’ve offered a fair compromise,” said Mr. McLaughlin.
In the end the board approved the plan with 15 conditions.
The board also accepted receipt of plans, Form A, for a parcel at 59 Gellette Road and an adjacent parcel. The lot lines have been redrawn.
The hearing for the Dunkin Donuts to construct a drive-through at 14 Plaza Way was continued to the 10/23 meeting.
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