Vassalboro planners approve two site review applications

by Mary Grow

In a four-hour all-remote meeting Dec. 8, four Vassalboro Planning Board members reviewed and unanimously approved two major site review applications.

Jeremy Soucy has town approval to open a used car business at 24 Webber Pond Road, on the premises of a previous similar business at the Riverside Drive intersection. Leo and Andrew Barnett are permitted to build two large buildings and a small storage building at the end of Sherwood Lane, off Riverside Drive, and lease space in the large buildings to caregivers to grow medical marijuana.

Soucy still needs a used car dealer’s license from the state, he said. Once operating, he plans to have no more than 30 cars on site at a time, probably fewer.

He plans to do minor repairs, working indoors and not making unusual noise. He does not plan to run a state inspection station. Maximum hours of operation will be Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and he is likely to shorten them.

Soucy said he is on good terms with his neighbor to the north and intends to do nothing that will bother area residents. The original property-owner designed the lot well for a used-car business, he said.

Soucy’s application was approved with two conditions and one understanding. The conditions are that he will not park vehicles where they will block the view of motorists turning out of Webber Pond Road onto Riverside Drive; and any waste stored outdoors, like scrap metal, or indoors, like waste oil, will be in secure containers.

The informal understanding is that if Soucy restores power to the lighted identifying sign installed by the previous owner, he will, if necessary, change the sign or the light source so it will not illuminate the whole neighborhood, as planning board member Douglas Phillips said the previous one did.

The Barnetts’ application had already been the subject of a long public hearing on Nov. 10. Afterward, board members found the application incomplete and asked for additional information before they compared it to town ordinance requirements.

Sherwood Lane residents and their attorney, Brandon J. Mazer, of Perkins Thompson, in Portland, sent Codes Officer Paul Mitnik and the planning board a letter setting forth reasons they agreed the application was incomplete and believed the Barnetts’ proposal failed to meet town standards. Mazer participated in the Dec. 8 meeting, as did Vassalboro town attorney Kristin Collins, of Preti-Flaherty, in Augusta.

After the hearing, Mitnik visited the property (with the Barnetts’ permission, as it is posted against trespassing) and reported to the board on drainage issues and wooded buffers.

At the Dec. 8 meeting, planning board members reviewed the revised Barnett application and voted unanimously that it was complete. Changes from the original plan include adding the turn-around for emergency vehicles requested by volunteer fire department members.

After a short break for comments from the viewing public (attorney Mazer spoke), board members compared the plan to ordinance standards and voted, again unanimously, to issue a permit for the proposed buildings and their use. They attached four conditions to the approval.

• A state Department of Environmental Protection staff member is to determine the location of a forested wetland on the property. A map shows it close to the proposed development, but Mitnik questioned the accuracy of the map; he thinks it is farther away.
• The growing buildings are to have odor control measures “to the satisfaction of the codes officer and meeting industry standards” – attorney Collins’ wording.
• Each caregiver who leases space to grow marijuana must show proof of registration with the state.
• The codes officer is to inspect the interior of the growing buildings to make sure growing facilities do not block exits.

The Barnetts said that once growing starts, outsiders are not allowed into the climate-controlled buildings. Mitnik said he would be satisfied to inspect when the growing areas are set up, before seeds are planted.

The review included discussion of objections raised by Sherwood Lane residents. Collins clarified state law concerning medical marijuana, as distinct from adult use marijuana, and the relationship between Vassalboro’s marijuana ordinance and state laws and regulations.

Board member Marianne Stevens repeatedly expressed concern about the location at the end of a residential street, for example, worrying about children and traffic. Leo Barnett said he does not expect a lot of traffic. He reminded board members that his similar facility on Old Meadow Lane, which the planning board, on Nov. 10, allowed him to double, has more residents along its access road.

Discussion of planning board business did not begin for some minutes after Chairman Virginia Brackett opened the meeting, because Vassalboro Community School technology expert David Trask needed to get participants connected via YouTube so that everyone could hear and be heard.

The Vassalboro Planning Board normally meets the first Tuesday evening of the month, so the next meeting should be Tuesday evening, Jan. 5, 2021.


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