Dexter councilors approve retail recreational marijuana moratorium
DEXTER — A month after passing a 60-day emergency moratorium ordinance regarding retail recreational marijuana, the town council passed another ordinance on the issue during the Feb. 8 meeting. The moratorium ordinance will be in effect for 180 days through Sept. 6 — residents can still use recreational and medicinal marijuana within the law — as the document covers all retail recreational marijuana activity and the location, operation or licensing of all such retail marijuana establishments and retail marijuana social clubs.
The full text of the moratorium ordinance is available at https://dextermaine.org/town-council/.
During the council’s discussion, Councilor Marcia Delaware said she had spoken on the proposal with Town Manager Jim Chandler and Code Enforcement Officer Al Tempesta. Delaware said that most retail marijuana establishments, such as stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities and testing facilities, are already covered by the existing land use ordinance with only social clubs not listed in existing town documents.
“In my mind this is redundant except for the social club issue,” Delaware said. She said the council may want to table the moratorium ordinance and draft another proposal for the next meeting concerning only retail marijuana social clubs.
“This protects us while the state decides so we can decide,” Councilor Sharon Grant said about the moratorium ordinance.
During the November 2016 election Maine residents approved a referendum concerning the possession and use of marijuana by those 21 and older which also allows for the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing and sale of marijuana and products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance. In Dexter 57 percent of voters were against the question, and town officials used this to indicate that there is community support for the moratorium ordinance.
In the year since the vote, town officials across the state and the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) have been examining what the referendum means, how the Maine Legislature is responding and what individual communities can do with local ordinances concerning both retail marijuana establishments and social clubs. Communities have the ability to opt out of the retail aspect of recreational marijuana.
Chandler said the general consensus among town officials he has spoken with is to enact a moratorium until the state makes a decision. He said the town’s moratorium ordinance can always be repealed by a council vote.
The town manager said technically a retail marijuana business cannot open without a state license. “We felt we didn’t want to be the guinea pig of a town that had somebody show up and say ‘we want to do this,’” Chandler said.
“We want to have tools to address the issues for retail establishments or social clubs,” he said. Chandler said the state is still working to determine how taxation on recreational retail marijuana establishments and social clubs would work, and once these rates and procedures are determined then the town will examine the new legislation.
“There are so many unanswered questions I thought it would be best to pass a moratorium and wait and see,” Chandler said. “I think the can will be kicked to the next governor,” he added about the marijuana legislation to address the existing issues.
“Two locks on the door would delay them a little further,” Vice Chair Peter Haskell said.
The moratorium ordinance passed via a vote of 4-1, with Delaware being the “no” vote.
In other business, councilors approved the appointment of 11 members to the temporary ATV task force. The committee is made up of members of the town council, business owners and citizens both for and against the opening of public ways to the operation of ATVs. All who expressed interest ended up with a seat on the task force.
In November residents approved a non-binding question asking if they favored opening town roads to ATVS by a count of 400 to 393. The next month Chandler proposed creating the task force to help the council research what travelways may be opened to ATVs, with the intention of helping community businesses and promoting economic development. The town manager had said the committee would ideally wrap up its work by mid-summer.
“We have already started meeting internally to start taking about the budget,” Chandler said, saying the schedule for the meetings of the SAD 46 budget process was included in the councilors’ packets.
“We will be working on the department budget requests and we will have the budget for you all at the May meeting,” he said.
Chandler said the 2018-19 municipal budget will include economic development components. “I would like to focus our efforts more on being proactive with economic development,” he said, presenting the council with a sheet from the comprehensive plan listing economic development goals.
He said a Community Engagement Academy is offering sessions in both the York County town of Berwick as well as on two other dates in New Hampshire. Chandler asked the councilors to consider attending and said the Dexter Revitalization Committee is also looking to have some of its members take part.
Frank Spizuoco of the Dexter Revitalization Committee said the previous budget only had $500 specifically earmarked for economic development. He asked that the council review this sum and hopes they would see economic development as a priority.
“I would just ask that you guys look at it and get the ball rolling,” Spizuoco said.
“It’s just been a page in the budget,” Delaware said about the role of economic development in previous spending plans.
“That’s something we should look at in the budget,” Haskell said.
Later in the public forum session, Councilor Fred Sherburne mentioned the “Welcome to Dexter” signs and wondered if additional signage could be posted below the existing messages. Sherburne said travelers on Route 7 may be heading up to Moosehead Lake, Monson with the developments in the community being made by the Libra Foundation and even the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
“We could use those signs to a more full advantage, just a thought,” Sherburne said, as perhaps the signs would help more visitors stop in Dexter to and from their destinations.
Grant then wondered if the ATV task force would look at trail signs promoting the town.
“I suspect a lot of that will be discussed when the task force starts to meet,” Chandler said. He said one idea could be for businesses to sponsor ATV trail signs, and additional signage could promote the municipal parking for vehicles and trailers. He said a lot by the trailhead in Newport is usually filled.
Chandler said the Dexter Skate Night, sponsored by Dexter Parks and Recreation and Skowhegan Savings Bank, was postponed the from the previous Friday night on account of frigid temperatures. “It’s been rescheduled for next Friday, a week from tomorrow — that’s weather dependent,” he said.
The Dexter Skate Night will be from 4-7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16 at the skating area on Pleasant Street, just off Route 7.