Medical Marijuana Zoning Proposal

The Dennis Planning Board and Zoning By-law Study Committee is recommending Town Meeting support for the proposed Medical Marijuana Facility Zoning Amendment in order to properly position the town for the on-set of these requests. There are two issues to be considered as part of this adoption.  First, where do we want to locate these facilities and how do we want to regulate them; and second, what is the impact of not taking action at this time.

Addressing the second question first, at the most recent public meeting a question came up as to why we were not looking at a moratoria like many other communities. The basic, honest truth, is a moratoria does not provide the town with any real protection relative to these facilities.

Massachusetts has a unique set of grandfather provisions.  In particular the use of a device known as an “Approval Not Required” plan to freeze zoning uses for up to three years from the date of the plan filing.

At present, there is a strong argument that these facilities should not be viewed as anything other than a basic retail use. Under such an argument, every commercial district in Dennis could be available for a Medical Marijuana Facility. An Approval Not Required Plan would establish a zoning freeze to that interpretation. Approval Not Required Plans can be filed at anytime during a moratoria. Thus, a moratoria, rather than closing the window on the locating of such facilities in Dennis for the extent the moratoria, extends the window for locating a facility in a zoning district where the town may not want such facilities. Adopting the proposal put forward by the Planning Board and Zoning By-law Study Committee at the May Town Meeting narrows the zoning freeze window to between now and May 7th.

The decision by some towns to delay action means they are leaving the option available to locate such facilities in any commercial district subject only to current retail use regulations. The Planning Board and Zoning By-law Study Committee recommend Town Meeting not delay action and create appropriate zoning at the May Town Meeting.

Going back to the first issue, the committees are recommending that Medical Marijuana Facilities, be located in the Dennis Industrial Zoning District.  Locating a facility, with the fencing and other security needs one of these buildings might require, in this district will not detract from other retail uses.  After significant discussion, the Planning Board and Zoning By-law Study Committee felt that the needs of these uses just were not compatible with being located in pedestrian friendly commercial districts. The facilities will require a Special Permit by the Planning Board and cannot be located on a lot abutting a residential zoning district, the bike path or Tony Kent Arena.  To apply for a Special Permit, an applicant will need to have a state license in hand. The facilities will also need to meet a level of security that meets with the approval of the Dennis Police Department.

The Planning Board and Zoning By-law Study Committee hope you will agree with this approach.

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8 thoughts on “Medical Marijuana Zoning Proposal

  1. Susan Haigney

    How about locating it in one of the strip malls between north and south of town so that So that it wouldn’t be located in the “high crime” sections of Dennis? It would be away from pedestrian traffic and the rail trail.

  2. Daniel Fortier Post author

    We had considered the “commercial” zoning districts, but our research suggested that these facilities generally required their own perimeter fencing for site security. They also were predominantly windowless facilities as the product they grow is under grow lights. The facilities also seek to protect their clientele, their privacy as well as their safety. Areas along Theophilus Smith Road or the industrial part of Great Western Road seemed better suited. Strip malls do not meet these needs.

  3. David MacGuire (@PDMacGuire)

    Brockton and Fall River seem better suited for this type of facility. I cannot believe that there are people who think that such a magnet for degenerates is appropriate for the Town of Dennis, but a Lowe’s is not.

  4. Daniel Fortier Post author

    Voters in November approved these facilities with about 63% voting to allow them. The statute required at least one in every county and the state has determined that no town can exclude them. The industrial zone is the most appropriate location for them in Dennis. There are significant controls being put in place. Those who are suffering from cancer and other debilitating diseases are hardly degenerates.

  5. Patricia Childs

    Mr. Fortier you may feel that the industrial zone is the most appropriate location for marijuana facilities in the Town of Dennis…but I can assure you as a business located in the industrial zone and discussion of a facility being right at my front door, I do not feel it is a suitable location. The bike path and the Tony Kent Arena may not be “adjacent” to this property, but they are certainly within a short walking distance. In addition, the crime rate has been increasing in this area and it seems unlikely that a facility of this type would be beneficial regardless of the security methods. I do hope the Town will reconsider the impact on businesses that have been in this area for decades, businesses that have support the town and its residents! In my humble opinion, I think it would be unlikely that 63% of voters thought that one of these facilities would be place in the middle of a high traffic industrial zone with family and children’s activities just steps away. I do hope that businesses in the industrial zone will be informed of meetings regarding this issue.

  6. Daniel Fortier Post author

    The Medical Marijuana zoning amendment was passed at Town Meeting this past spring with near unanimous support. It was only adopted after several public sessions between the Planning Board and the Zoning By-law Study Committee as well as a noticed public hearing held by the Planning Board. In addition, both the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee held public sessions on the zoning amendment prior to Town Meeting.

  7. Patricia Childs

    Mr. Fortier,
    I am sure that all protocol has been followed, but every resident that I have spoken to in the past few weeks has not been aware of this new zoning regulation. Fortunately, I hope the article “Cape pot growers get green light” in the Cape Cod Times on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 will get their attention. Especially when they read the section that Heatley explains how selling the marijuana has been abused in other states but she does not “think” it will happen in Dennis….all just steps away from family and children’s activities….

  8. Daniel Fortier Post author

    Pat, first understand, every town in the Commonwealth has to open its doors to these facilities. The decision as to where to put them becomes a challenge. Do you put one on Route 28? Or Route 134? The Planning Board wrestled with this question. There was also significant support for not dragging out feet. Over 500 people, according to MA Public Health, have qualifying conditions in Dennis. If the dispensary is not located in town, that could result in 500 people potentially growing it in their homes. Dennis already has one licensed person growing marijuana for medical purposes. The grow at home option is far more scary, it is too easy for grow at home marijuana to be snipped and propagated.

    We did our research before bringing this by-law to town meeting and feel that the by-law provides adequate protections. People involved in other parts of the country have stated that the Massachusetts model is better than what Colorado did. The “abuse” came from setting up “dispensaries” on nearly every street corner in Denver. Pot doc’s set up next door and the two combined to have a lucrative business relationship. The Department of Public Health is supposed to establish that patients have long relationships with their doctors to avoid the “pot doc” situation. Limiting the number of licensed facilities will also provide better control over distribution points. All in all, it will provide better control over the distribution of medical marijuana than we have over doctors prescribing oxycodone. It wasn’t that long ago a doctor in Sandwich was caught writing prescriptions for as many as 700 doses a month of oxy for patients.

    In the end remember, these patients are starving to death after chemo and the marijuana will give them an appetite. They suffer from cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson’s, Crohn’s Disease and many other life threatening conditions. With the controls we have put into the zoning by-law there will be more control over a dispensary site than if a hookah lounge came to town.

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