Cape Elizabeth enacts waiting period for marijuana businesses

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council has enacted an emergency 90-day moratorium on retail marijuana businesses.

The council on Dec. 12 also voted to apply for a grant from the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System to fund $500,000 in sidewalk and stormwater improvements in the town center.

The moratorium on retail marijuana businesses, which went into effect immediately, was enacted in response to a statewide referendum that legalized recreational marijuana. In Cape Elizabeth, residents narrowly approved the referendum question, 3,327 to 3,166; a recount of the statewide result is expected to contine for several weeks.

The town’s attorney, John Wall, drafted the moratorium. Councilors on Monday night said it was important to put a moratorium in place since many nearby towns have already taken the same step.

“The primary reason a moratorium is needed is that all of our surrounding communities have enacted them,” Councilor Patty Grennon said. “Because of this, there could be significant impacts to Cape Elizabeth if we become the area destination … for retail marijuana businesses.”

Councilors said they’ll use the 90 days to have the Ordinance Committee study the impact a retail marijuana establishment would have on the town. 

“It’s just allowing us to have the information,” Grennon said. “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to allow these things to happen.”

PACTS grant

The council unanimously approved allowing town staff to apply for a matching grant from PACTS.

Town Planner Maureen O’Meara presented details about the grant application, which is due Feb. 3, 2017. The money would be available in 2020.

To make the town’s application more competitive, O’Meara said Cape Elizabeth will be applying as part of a package with Portland and South Portland because the three municipalities are part of one sub-region of PACTS. She said Portland and South Portland would also use the money for pedestrian access improvements, but have yet to decide on specific projects and don’t yet know how much money they’ll be applying for.

The $500,000 grant is the portion Cape Elizabeth is applying for within the combined application.

Cape Elizabeth’s town center plan includes a tax increment financing (TIF) district that was created to put money towards pedestrian access and stormwater improvements. O’Meara suggested to councilors that they take $75,000 from the TIF and $50,000 from the town’s capital improvement projects fund to make the 25 percent local match that is required to get the grant.

“The money you’re collecting (from the TIF district) is never really going to be enough to do anything really significant, but if you use it as a cash match with a grant application, you can actually start to have some real money and do some real projects,” O’Meara said to councilors Monday night.

The hope is to have a total of $500,000 to complete the sidewalk system in the town center and improve stormwater management in that area. O’Meara said the sidewalk would run in front of the shopping center on Old Ocean House Road and go until Fowler Road.

“This would be a significant improvement in completing the sidewalks in the town center,” she said. “This would be an opportunity to really maximize money you already have.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.