Barnstable Town Council Sets Medical Marijuana Overlay District

Council rolls its own; tightens medical marijuana district PDF E-mail
Written by Susan Vaughn
Town Council approved an amended version of a special overlay zoning district that will allow a registered medical marijuana dispensary to locate here. The town had a moratorium of several months on any action until a zoning ordinance and regulations could be drawn up.The regulations are in conjunction with the new state law approved by voters (57 percent in Barnstable) in November 2012 that allows for up to five dispensaries in a county. The state recently approved licenses for dispensaries in Dennis and Mashpee in Barnstable County.The approval came late on Feb. 6 after a required joint public hearing with the planning board, which recommended a large district that covered most of the Independence Park industrial area along Independence Drive, Mary Dunn Road, Attucks Lane and Airport Road as well as a section along Route 28 from Yarmouth Road to the Yarmouth town line. The planning board had expanded the Growth Management Department’s original recommendation for a smaller section of the industrial park closer to Route 132.

Several town council members objected to the expanded areas, especially along Route 28 and the upper section of the industrial park that is home to the Brazilian Assembly of God in Hyannis Church, Trinity Christian Academy, Cape Abilities Inc., and day care centers, so councilors proposed two amended versions with significantly reduced districts before the final one was approved.

The council went ahead with the changes even though the planning board did not have enough votes at 3-2 in favor to make a positive recommendation on the amended version. The council was not required to follow the planning board’s recommendation.

Planning board Chairman Matthew Teague explained that the expansion through the industrial park would allow more flexibility, and stressed the security at the dispensaries.

“These are locked, closed, windowless buildings and are not {for} illicit adult use,” Teague said, and added that they provide “an economic opportunity and revenue.” He even noted that home delivery of the products in armored trucks with guards is planned. “It’s not a place people are going to be hanging out.” Teague said the dispensaries also will require a special permit from the planning board.

Growth Management Director Jo Anne Miller Buntich said the proposed district was the result of interviews with police, hospital personnel and potential proprietors, who indicated the industrial park as the best area for a dispensary.

Buntich said some of the parcels in the district would not be eligible for a dispensary because of the church, school and other such facilities. “We don’t know if they’ll {dispensaries} come here, but we have to ready if they do,” she said.

Council Vice President Ann Canedy proposed the first amendment to the planning board’s district, which pulled it back to the original area recommended by the Growth Management Department in a smaller section of the industrial park. She said the expanded area encroached on two large proposed projects there, a senior living center and the Village Green housing complex, as well as the church, school and Cape Abilities.

Even though Canedy is not a proponent of the dispensaries, she said, “The reality is the law has passed and we have to zone.” She favored the original recommendation as the best area because it is “isolated, yet secure, and does not have tourists driving by.”

Other councilors expressed concerns about the inclusion of the east end of Route 28. Jen Cullum proposed a “friendly amendment” to Canedy’s that also eliminated the Route 28 section.

Two planning board members, David Munsell and Ray Lang, also expressed their objections to the expanded district and to the dispensaries entirely.

“I think this whole issue stinks,” Munsell said. “I would like to see this go back to the planning board to look over.” He also opposed the expanded area in the industrial area because of the planned housing developments and the proximity to the church and school. He claimed the areas were chosen before the planning board voted.

“We’re becoming a rubber stamp. We’d like more time to make sure the zones are in the proper place,” Munsell said.

Lang shared Munsell’s opinion. “It bothers me to vote on a drug. What’s before us is a business,” which is supposed to be operated by non-profits. He suggested putting the dispensaries in other towns.

“We haven’t been privy to some information,” Lang also said. He said he would not vote until he talks to a hospital administrator he said is opposed to the dispensary proposal.

The public’s comments were mixed – pro and con and neutral.

Developer Stuart Bornstein favored expanding the Route 28 section of the marijuana district from the Yarmouth line to the Hyannis Rotary. “It’s very limited where it is,” he said. “This type of product should open up the whole corridor on 28.”

West Yarmouth resident Christine Greeley had opposed a previous proposal to put the district near Cape Cod Hospital, which her Hyannis Park neighborhood abuts. She commended the council for waiting to make a decision, and said, “I’m pleased you moved it out of the hospital area.”

Linda Raull of Hyannis was adamant against the dispensaries, which she said are causing problems in states like California and Colorado. “Why Hyannis?” she asked. “We have enough problems here. This totally is a bad idea. It’s not needed at all.”

However, Barbara Curley of West Barnstable, a cancer survivor who had used medical marijuana, said, “We’re not talking about street drugs. They help you calm down when you’re going through cancer. There are a lot of us out there.” She urged the council to approve the dispensary site in the industrial park.

John Norman was one of three councilors who voted against the new district, noting that he knew of several day care centers operating in the industrial buildings in the proposed district as well as the school, church and others within the 1,000-foot required setback of a district from such facilities.

“We need more due diligence on the map,” he said. “I’m open to looking at other areas.”

Councilors Will Crocker and Debra Dagwan, who also voted against the new zoning district, said they agreed with Norman for basically the same reasons.

After all the discussion, Canedy withdrew her substitute amendment and Cullum’s “friendly amendment” was approved, 10 to 3.

Canedy delayed her vote until the end, then joined the proponents. The final vote was 10 to 3. A two-thirds vote of the council, or nine, was required.

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