Vassalboro select board discusses medical marijuana license renewals

by Mary Grow

The final Vassalboro select board meeting of 2022, held Dec. 22, began with discussion of renewing medical marijuana business licenses for 2023.

Codes officer Paul Mitnik presented the list of licenses up for annual permits. Audience members offered no comments on any of them.

Select board members unanimously approved five of the six applications, renewing licenses on Old Meadows Road for building owner Leo Barnett and tenants Colin Dorsey, William Cunningham, Zeena McMullen and Hayden Poupis.

Action on the sixth application, from Daniel Charest, whose building on Cushnoc Road burned, was postponed until the replacement building is finished and approved. Mitnik said Charest has a building permit, and when a new building is available will have tenants who need licensing.

Mitnik offered suggestions about two issues covered by the Marijuana Business Ordinance that voters approved in June 2021 and amended slightly in June 2022.

First, he said, the ordinance refers to a “facility,” without defining the word or making clear whether it means a building or a growing operation.

Barnett has four buildings on Old Meadow Road, which currently count as a single facility. Two of his tenants have two growing areas apiece; they are each counted as a single facility.

Mitnik said he had his own suggestions for clarification and one from the town attorney, and select board chair Barbara Redmond offered another idea. The issue will be discussed at a future meeting.

Mitnik’s second issue is the exemption from license requirements for a “facility” that is less than 1,000 square feet. He said the exemption is hard to enforce, especially when growers are reluctant to admit people to their areas, and is contrary to the intent of the Marijuana Business Ordinance, which is to prohibit new facilities beyond those already operating when the ordinance took effect.

After discussion of the legality of a grower barring legitimate required inspections, and whether state law allows banning all new medical marijuana growing businesses, the issue was postponed.

Mitnik reminded select board members that he is about to retire as Vassalboro’s codes officer, for the fourth time, passing on the job to Bob Geaghan.

Vassalboro will also have a new town manager in 2023, as Mary Sabins retires. Select board members signed papers appointing Aaron Miller to the position, and the other positions the manager holds, effective Jan. 3.

Select board holds first meeting with new manager

by Mary Grow

Aaron Miller

Vassalboro select board members held their first meeting with Aaron Miller, who succeeded Mary Sabins as town manager, on Jan. 5, with a short agenda.

Miller reported after the meeting that board members scheduled a public hearing for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 19, in the town office meeting room. The hearing is to solicit public comments on allocating Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, in preparation for considering amendments to the TIF Ordinance.

Vassalboro voters approved a TIF, a state-approved tax system, at the June 2014 annual town meeting. Taxes paid by Summit Natural Gas on its pipeline through the town along Route 201 (Riverside Drive) go into the municipal TIF fund, which can be used to make grants to projects that qualify under state law.

The grantees named in the original Vassalboro TIF were the Alewife Restoration Initiative (ARI), aimed at opening Outlet Stream to allow alewives access from the Sebasticook River to China Lake, and the expansion of the Vassalboro Sanitary District’s sewer lines to connect with Winslow.

Both projects received TIF funds, and both have been completed, so the ordinance needs to designate new fund recipients. TIF amendments require approval by town meeting voters and by state officials in the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Miller said board members directed him to prepare a request for proposals (RFP) for improvements to the town office entrance: better lighting, and a button that would open the doors, making access easier for handicapped visitors.

The ideas were submitted by town office staff as part of a list of proposals select board members reviewed at their Dec. 15, 2022, meeting.

Following up on their Dec. 22, 2022, discussion, Miller said, board members talked about amending the town’s Marijuana Business Ordinance, without coming to conclusions.

The manager said the next regular Vassalboro select board meeting will follow the Jan. 19 public hearing.

In other business, board members repealed the covid vaccination policy adopted at the beginning of the pandemic. Board member Chris French said he had always opposed it, because it applied only to employees in the town office; he thought all employees should have been included.

They agreed to a recreation committee request to sell a set of unneeded soccer goal posts, for $80. Program director Karen Hatch said there is one more set that is no longer useful to the town.

Resident Tom Richards started a discussion of ways to deter or punish people who litter roadsides, with select board members sympathetic but unsure what would work.

The next Vassalboro select board meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Jan. 5, 2023.


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