Public hearing on marijuana draws no one
Boothbay Harbor selectmen held a public hearing Monday, Sept. 11 concerning the wording and order of the marijuana ballot questions for the Nov. 7 town ballot. Except for the board, Town Manager Tom Woodin and recording secretary Kellie Bigos, the room was empty.
“The purpose of this is for the general public to come in and ask questions on the warrant which has been duly advertised,” said Woodin. “This is just a formality of part of the process to make sure that no one is surprised when these warrant articles show up.”
“(People) have had due opportunity to come in and discuss them and present feedback on them and it doesn’t appear like there’s going to be much this evening,” said Woodin as he and the board looked out across the room of empty chairs.
To make it a legal public hearing, the board is required to wait 20 minutes for any possible stragglers to come in and air their concerns or witness the hearing. Selectmen’s Chair Wendy Wolf continued on with the issue despite the lack of an audience.
“The one thing that we discussed about putting together the warrant questions is the way that questions are worded,” said Wolf. “We spent some time talking with the town attorney and because all of the five retail uses are already permitted by law, municipalities have the authority to decide if any of those will be exercised in the municipality. We have to ask the question about having voters vote to prohibit the commercial use since it is allowed by law.”
The ballot questions are as follows:
Article 1: To see if the Town will vote to enact an ordinance entitled “Ordinance Prohibiting Retail Marijuana Stores.”
Article 2: To see if the Town will vote to enact an ordinance entitled “Ordinance Prohibiting Retail Marijuana Social Clubs.”
Article 3: To see if the Town will vote to enact an ordinance entitled “Ordinance Prohibiting Retail Marijuana Cultivation Facilities.”
Article 4: To see if the Town will vote to enact an ordinance entitled “Ordinance Prohibiting Retail Marijuana Manufacturing Facilities.”
Article 5: To see if the Town will vote to enact an ordinance entitled “Ordinance Prohibiting Retail Marijuana Testing Facilities.”
Voters can answer yes or no to each question. For example, if you do not support merchandised marijuana in Boothbay Harbor, you would vote “Yes” for Article 1. And if you support marijuana cultivation facilities in Boothbay Harbor, you would vote “No” on Article 3. If you support everything “marijuana” you would vote “No” on all the articles. And if you do not support anything “marijuana,” you would vote “Yes” on all the articles.
“These five articles do not have any effect at all on the personal use of marijuana, the personal growth of marijuana, medical marijuana,” noted Wolf. “It is allowed by the law, but we’re really asking about prohibiting it, here, within the town.”
Wolf asked if there were any comments.
“I don’t have any comments— well, I have comments related to these warrants, but that’s only because I would vote ‘Yes’ on all of them for a number of different reasons” said Denise Griffin, vice chairman.
“What do we do with the result?” asked Selectman Russ Hoffman.
“Well, it depends on what the result is,” said Woodin. “If everyone votes ‘Yes’ to prohibit, then these ordinances go into effect immediately. If on any one of them they vote ‘No,’ then the Planning Board is going to have to burst into action because you will have until January 30 to have figured out what we’re going to do with that.”
Woodin said if one or more articles fail to pass, the town would likely have to impose its own moratorium to buy time for the Planning Board to draft the necessary ordinance(s) governing and guiding those issues.
“(It) … would probably also require outside consultants to help develop the code and figure out what kind of enforcement that’s going to need to be done,” added Griffin. “Of course that’s going to have a budget impact and that’s why I want to make sure people understand that there will be a budget impact on a short-term basis and a long-term basis.”
Griffin said if Boothbay Harbor failed to prohibit even just one category, there could be significant budget impacts in both the short and long term. Wolf agreed, saying the issues could range anywhere from law enforcement to ambulance.
“I think the members of the Planning Board don’t think we have the acreage for manufacturing and cultivation,” added Wolf.
“But do people understand that?” asked Hoffman. “That we don’t have the acreage?”
“What difference does it make? … I don’t want any of it,” said Griffin. “I don’t want to say ‘Just because it’s unlikely doesn’t matter which way you should vote.’”
The next event is a panel discussion featuring Patricia Rossi, president of The Wellness Center of Maine, Kate Marone, director of Healthy Lincoln County, and Addiction Outreach Specialist Holly Stover from the Boothbay Region Community Resource Council. Selectmen hope to add a fourth member from the law enforcement perspective before the Tuesday, Oct. 24 discussion at 5:30 p.m.
The hearing lasted about 25 minutes. A board meeting followed.
Woodin led off with a recent inquiry he received on whether or not the board would be interested in updating the orthoimagery data of the region for $2,500. The new images will be released in 2018 with better image definition than that of the 2013 images the town currently has.
“I wouldn’t recommend going forward to purchase the updated imagery,” Woodin said. “It would have a couple new buildings in it, probably … but we don’t currently use it in any capacity and I don’t know that the general public is using it either.”
Woodin said the sewer and water districts have their own purchases of the orthoimagery and regularly use it, so not upgrading would not affect the two districts.
Finance Officer Julia Latter gave the financials. The total revenue and total expenses, year to date, are $3,867,701 and $1,332,638, respectively. The bank balance is currently $4,761,820.87. Latter announced that since the taxes due date of Sept. 7, the town has already collected 51 percent which she says is higher than usual in the span of six days.
Wolf said that within this past week, three people from Camoin and Associates, MRLD Landscape Architecture and Urbanism, and Wright Pierce were in town conducting “key stakeholder interviews.”
In total, 73 stakeholders in the Boothbay Region were interviewed by the three companies in order to gain a greater understanding of strengths and weaknesses in the regional economy. Wolf said all of these efforts and information will culminate in a “master plan workshop” on Thursday, Oct. 12 during the early evening at the Boothbay Fire Station.
As part of the capital improvement projects, the next flood impact study meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 10 a.m. Baker Design Consultants will attend. Bob Faunce, Lincoln County planner, will lead the meeting and discussion.