Medical Marijuana Dispensary landlord seeking to freeze “zoning use” this week

Monday night, abutters seeking to block a Medical Marijuana dispensary were dealt another blow. This one may knock all the teeth out of potential bylaw changes in Warrant Articles headed for Town Meeting.

Representatives for the owner of 255 Turnpike Road went before the Planning Board last night. They presented a perimeter ANR (Approval Not Required) plan to the board. The paperwork simply outlined the property’s perimeter with no changes, and listed abutters.

Chair Don Morris read from a state publication that the ANR is usually filed by property owners to obtain a three year zoning use freeze. Representatives confirmed that is their intent.

The three sitting Planning Board members surmised it would probably grandfather the property from any zoning changes at Town Meeting. But they were all unsure, as was attending Selectman Paul Cimino, a former Planning Board member.

In the past, the board has explained that it can only vote against an ANR permit if it finds that it doesn’t meet the requirements or the filing isn’t in order. And if they don’t act on it by the legal deadline, the application is automatically approved. Engineering consultant Dan Merrikin told the board that under the law, they have until this Friday.* 

Reading from the law, Merrikin said that the board was not allowed to withhold their endorsement unless there was a subdivision.

The board seemed to feel its hands were tied. But rather than acting last night, they opted to seek more information and advice from Town Counsel. An agenda has been posted to address the matter on Thursday at noon. (They will also be discussing 84 Main Street, the Burnett estate at that meeting.)

Opposition to the dispensary siting was already a murky legal area. No one has seemed confident of what happens if zoning changes pass at Town Meeting. There were questions as to whether the permit granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals would be grandfathered. Impact of abutters’ likely appeal to the ZBA decision was another unknown.

The more recent development may make all of those moot points. Meanwhile, one resident commented hopefully that the filing of the zoning bylaw articles predated the ANR filing.

Prior to the ANR discussion, the board hosted public hearings on the citizen petition Warrant Articles to change Marijuana zoning bylaws.

Member Jesse Stein recused himself from it and any discussions about the dispensary. State ethics counsel had confirmed that he conflicted himself out by having signed a petition in opposition to the dispensary. He promised in the future not to publicly commit himself to something that could come before the board, without first consulting ethics counsel.

The other three members in attendance voted to support the Warrant Articles. Member Phil Jenks said he didn’t feel as passionately as those campaigning against it. And he had been impressed by the applicant’s presentation at the Zoning Board of Appeals. But he believed he should support those who were showing up to ask for bylaw changes.

Member Andrew Mills said that he believed that as a board they had to ensure their was access. But in his own research, an app he discovered informed him that three companies were already competing to deliver to Southborough. According to him, one even had a “deal” in place for a low price on 2 ounces. So he was assured that residents who needed a prescription would have access.

*Engineering consultant Dan Merrikin said documents were filed the morning of March 11th. The Town’s deadline of 14 days had already passed, but Morris said that hadn’t been upheld in the past. All were in agreement that they needed to meet the state deadline of 21 days. Morris believed they may have until Monday, based on when it was logged in by the Town Clerk’s office, but admitted that was just quibbling over hours.

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