Rec Pot Zoning Proposal to Get Hearing in Ashburnham
By Mina Corpuz
ASHBURNHAM -- A zoning amendment that would allow recreational marijuana businesses in town is expected to have a public hearing later in the month to appear on the warrant for November’s Special Town Meeting.
“We tried to make a bylaw that wasn’t more restrictive than the state law and kind of determine where things would go,” Planning Board Chair Roger Hoyt told the Board of Selectmen at its Monday meeting.
The town’s zoning would be updated to allow marijuana retail in retail districts and facilities for growing, testing, or manufacturing in light industrial districts, he said.
Selectmen have looked at the bylaw and like what the board has proposed.
“We’ve been talking it to death and I think this a good framework,” said Selectman Kyle Johnson. “Kudos to the Planning Board to put in the effort and putting together what appears to be a really good job.”
Marijuana businesses could provide the town with more tax revenue and offset some of the taxes residents pay, Hoyt said.
To help attract businesses, the Planning Board looked to limit the amount of special permits required to open a facility.
There have been a few companies come to town and asked about the town’s regulations and public sentiment, Hoyt said. Having a bylaw in place could encourage them to consider business in Ashburnham, he said.
“If I was a business, just like you said, I wouldn’t want to put all my weight behind something in a community where I didn’t have any idea what the rules were going to be,” said Board of Selectmen Chair John Mulhall.
The Planning Board began crafting regulations in August using guidance from a survey about recreational marijuana.
About 78 percent of the people who took the survey said Ashburnham shouldn’t ban all types of marijuana businesses. Commercial growing, manufacturing, and retail sales also received support.
Before the survey, the only gauge of how residents felt about recreational marijuana was the 2016 state referendum, which the town voted in favor of.
Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz.