China officials disagree on need for solventless hash application

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members spent their Nov. 22 meeting discussing procedural issues.

The longest discussion was over cancelation of the scheduled public hearing on Bryan Mason’s application to convert a shipping container on his property at 1144 Route 3 to a solventless hash lab (see The Town Line, Nov. 3, p. 2).

At the board’s Oct. 25 meeting, Mason explained he intends to make hash oil from marijuana plants and sell it to companies that use it to make consumer products. He does not intend to make such products himself, nor to do retail business from his property.

Codes officer Nicholas French considered the application was for a change of use, which needs planning board approval. Board members agreed, and scheduled a Nov. 22 public hearing to give neighbors (and others) a chance to comment.

French emailed on Nov. 21 that town attorney Amanda Meader considered the proposed business a home occupation, which can be approved by the codes officer without board action. Therefore Mason withdrew his application and the hearing was canceled. Mason’s attorney had talked with Meader, French said at the Nov. 22 meeting.

Board members objected on two grounds. Based on consistent past practice, they think decisions about commercial marijuana businesses should be subject to planning board review; and they think the town attorney’s opinion should not have overruled the decision to hold a hearing that they had already made.

They therefore asked French to talk again with Mason, with the goal of getting the application resubmitted and the hearing rescheduled.

Planning board co-chairman James Wilkens was re-elected to that position, sharing with Toni Wall. Wall succeeds Scott Rollins, who was not a candidate for re-election to the board.

Board members reviewed the town’s Planning Board Ordinance and the Remote Participation Policy (which select board members reviewed the evening before). The latter describes when a board member can participate in a meeting remotely rather than attending in person.

Planning board members agreed that when winter weather made driving potentially dangerous, they would cancel a scheduled meeting, unless an agenda item were urgent enough to require meeting remotely.

Board members offered two items for future meetings. Wall wants to review the town comprehensive plan and see if any actions are needed, and Walter Bennett wants to continue developing an ordinance to control commercial solar developments and prevent “solar sprawl.”

The next China Planning Board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6.


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