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North Adams Council Refers Pot Ordinance to Public Safety

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Councilor Jason LaForest, who was on the working group, explains some of the changes the group made to the model ordinance. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday voted to refer the proposed marijuana retail ordinance to committee to allow councilors more time to review it. 
 
"There's enough questoins here tonight to go to at least one committee meeting," Councilor Wayne Wilkinson said. "We can't just boulder this thing through."
 
Wilkinson initially said he was simply making a statement but when it appeared there was interest in the idea, motioned to amend the referral to the Planning Board to also include the Public Safety Committee. 
 
Mayor Thomas Bernard is pushing to have the ordinance in place by April 1, when the state Cannabis Control Commission begins accepting the applications. 
 
Not having an ordinance in place would give marijuana retail establishments by-right siting, he said, thus the reason for getting the regulations in place. 
 
One of Bernard's first actions as mayor was to pull together a working group of city officials and residents to hammer out an ordinance based on the state commission's guidelines and current regulations regarding alcohol. The group submitted its proposed ordinance after two meetings and a public hearing. 
 
The main changes to the basic proposal -- which also details which non-residential zones the four different types of cannibis facilities can be located -- included the addition of a 500-foot setback from places of worship and any licensed day care (not just day care centers), neither of which is contained in the state laws regarding liquor and package stores.  
 
"The question for the council or the Planning Board as they take this up, is that a stricture they want to hold in place?" the mayor said. 
 
A couple councilors raised concerns similar to those discussed by the working group, such as the whether the setbacks would eliminate Main Street and the downtown from the possibility of having a marijuana storefront. 
 
The group had spent a long time discussing whether to include churches in the 500-foot setback and how to define a "facility where minors congregate." The city's former mayor, Richard Alcombright, and several others had asked that churches be included.
 
However, Wilkinson, a former member of the Planning Board, and Councilor Jason LaForest, a member of the working group, both noted that the Redevelopment Authority has oversight over much of the south side of Main Street all the way to the Oasis Plaza and across the river at Western Gateway Heritage State Park. 
 
"The Redevelopment Authority can do what it wants," Wilkinson said. "Whatever rules we are imposing tonight, the Redevelopment Authority can do what it wants."
 
Bernard was not opposed to the council reviewing those changes but cautioned that time was pressing. The council would also be getting three additional related items: regulations on public consumption, fines for public consumption, and the option for a local tax on top of the state tax for retail. 
 
The mayor's timeline had the ordinance being referred to a joint meeting and public hearing of the Planning Board to take place no later than March 5 and brought to the council for first reading on March 13 and a second and final reading on March 27. 
 
Wilkinson thought the speed of the ordinance pointed to waiting to the last minute but LaForest countered that the state had not promulgated basic language until late December. 
 
But Wilkinson thought there was still time to get in council subcommittee meeting within the next several weeks. There was some discusion about which committee would review it and Wilkinson motioned to amend to Public Safety.
 
In other business: 
 
The council confirmed the reappointment of Armond "Paul" Boillat and appointment of Dean Bullett to the Airport Commission for terms to expire Feb. 1, 2021; and the appointment of Marc Morandi to fill the unexpired term of Trevor Gilman for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2019.
 
Confirmed the re-appointment of Christine Naughton and the appointment of Ashley Shade to the Human Services Commission, for terms to expire Feb. 1, 2021.
 
Approved an application submitted by Kenneth Upton, 292 Beaver St., to drive taxi for RJ's Taxi.
 
Council President Keith Bona submitted correspondence on the city's shooting range after being approached by a couple of residents. There were issues of concern over safety, security and costs. The matter was also referred to the Public Safety Committee. 

Tags: marijuana,   

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