AP NEWS

Pepperell Planning Board Eyes Marijuana Zoning Bylaw

March 13, 2019

PEPPERELL -- Recreational marijuana stores have a shot at coming to Pepperell, but locals want to know where specifically in town.

The Pepperell Planning Board hosted a public hearing Monday night at the Pepperell Senior Center regarding a proposed zoning bylaw amendment to regulate the location of the shops.

Though Pepperell voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana when the subject was on the statewide ballot in 2016, the proposed bylaw amendment would permit the placement of marijuana-related businesses only in certain zoning districts, and require a special permit be issued by the Planning Board.

The proposed amendment would permit marijuana retailers in the town’s industrial and commercial districts, while other businesses, including marijuana product manufacturers, marijuana research facilities and marijuana transporters, would only be allowed in the industrial district. The amendment would also prohibit marijuana consumption at any licensed marijuana establishment in town.

The proposed amendment would see the Planning Board impose certain conditions on the marijuana establishments, including imposing security precautions and elements relating to energy efficiency.

The amendment would also require that no marijuana facility be located within 300 feet of the property line of any day care center or public or private school.

The bylaw amendment would limit the number of marijuana shops in town to 20 percent of the number of liquor licenses issued, and prohibit marijuana businesses in any building containing residential units, motels or dorms.

On top of special permit approval, those looking to open up shop for marijuana would need proper licensing and permits from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, a letter from the police chief approving the shop’s security plan and an odor control plan detailing the odor-specific activities the business will be doing and how it will implement odor control measures.

“The intent of this is to protect the town and make sure we have rules and regulations on people interested in growing, selling or testing marijuana within Pepperell,” Planning Board Chair Michael Dapcic said at the hearing. “This is just to set regulations in place, we’re not going to supersede the town.”

Ten residents attended the public hearing and asked for clarification on certain elements of the amendment.

The most frequent inquirer was Renee Dargento of Prospect Street, who asked why the businesses were being allowed in commercial districts and whether or not a traffic study would also be required for the businesses.

Board Clerk Richard McHugh answered her questions, pointing out that the board could not restrict retail marijuana shops owners more than it does liquor stores and that a traffic impact study is required for any marijuana building looking to get special permit approval.

“This bylaw is not put in place to promote or negate the use or sale of marijuana,” McHugh added. “Just like we have bylaws for zoning for dogs and everything, this guides our town. If the Town of Pepperell decides it doesn’t want to have it, then we go back to the drawing board.”

The board later closed the public hearing and agreed to make an official decision on adopting the bylaw at its meeting on Monday, March 18.