2017-01-11 / Front Page

Kennebunk holds public hearing on retail marijuana moratorium

By ALAN BENNETT
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — A public hearing was held during the Kennebunk Board of Selectmen’s meeting to discuss a proposed moratorium on retail marijuana establishments on Tuesday.

During the hearing, residents voiced their concerns regarding the potential for retail establishments such as marijuana shops and social clubs moving into the community as a result of the legalization of recreational marijuana, which was approved by voters under the Marijuana Legalization Act on Nov. 8.

Kennebunk Town Manager Michael Pardue said Monday the proposed moratorium will give city officials time to evaluate regulations pertaining to retail pot establishments and social clubs, following Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s announcement on Jan. 2 that the law would take effect at the end of this month.

“At this point the town is seeking to allow for some time as we see how the state law will ultimately be crafted,” Pardue said on Monday. 

Some Kennebunk residents on Tuesday said they were concerned because they aren’t sure if the state, or the town specifically, is ready to handle an influx of marijuana businesses.

“I think each town has to look at what they want in their town and I’m not sure,” said resident Susan Karytko, who is the wife of Selectman Edward Karytko.

“Myself, I was against the marijuana thing. I’m not sure whether or not we’re ready or the state is ready to handle it this year. It takes a lot more discussion and it’s a very close thing,” she said of the tight race for marijuana legalization.

The act to legalize recreational use of marijuana, which was citizens’ referendum Question 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot, passed at the state level by a narrow margin of 3,995 votes.

Under the Marijuana Legalization Act, municipalities are authorized to regulate the number of retail marijuana stores, and the location and operation of such retail facilities, within their jurisdiction.

Kennebunk’s proposed moratorium language states the ordinance will give the town administration and planning department time to study the town’s current codes to determine the land use and other regulatory implications of retail marijuana establishments.

The town also says a moratorium would prevent the facilities department from becoming overburdened from the establishment of such facilities, and that such an ordinance would allow for the town to prepare for increased traffic that may also come as consequence.

The town has a special town meeting planned for Feb. 28 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., during which residents will vote on the proposed moratorium.

Residents said during the selectmen’s meeting that they are concerned that the legalization of recreational pot has forced towns to act quickly regarding their own marijuana ordinances.

“I’ve been following it in the local papers and watching what every town is doing, and I find it interesting that some towns are holding back longer so that (each moratorium) has a long effect,” Karytko said. because, “Everybody’s doing it at different times.”

Other York County communities have explored enacting moratoriums on retail marijuana establishments. The city of Biddeford last Tuesday voted to uphold its decision to enact a 180-day moratorium on retail marijuana facilities for the same reasons.

Some residents said they hope the town looks at the facts surrounding marijuana legalization before hastily making decisions to enact a moratorium, although they acknowledged the town ultimately has the right to decide whether to implement such an ordinance.

“I hope the consideration is going to be fact-based,” said resident John Costin. “I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the town to decide whether they want such things.”

One of the residents’ main concerns was the timeline surrounding both marijuana legalization and the proposed moratorium on retail establishments. Residents were concerned the law legalizing recreational use of the drug might be finalized too quickly before the town is able to prepare itself.

“I don’t like to see things rushed into. However, (marijuana legalization is) voted (on). It’s done for now, but I think we have the right as a state and community to find out whether we fit in all of this,” Karytko said.

“The last thing we want to do is be in a situation where we’ll regret what’s going on at a later date,” she also said. “It’s such an explosive issue there’s a possibility that could happen.”

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com. 

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