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.