Freeport council forced to delay vote on retail marijuana moratorium

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FREEPORT — A vote on a moratorium on retail marijuana establishments was tabled Tuesday by the Town Council because of a legal issue.

The council was scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote on the moratorium on licensing of recreational marijuana businesses, but was stalled because the hearing wasn’t properly publicized.

During the meeting the board also postponed a vote on a set of goals for the new year.

According to the Town Charter, public hearings must be advertised in a newspaper at least seven days prior to a hearing, which the town failed to do. Instead, on Tuesday the public hearing was opened and continued to Jan. 3.

There was no discussion by either the council or the public.

If passed, the moratorium for recreational marijuana establishments and social clubs would be in effect for 180 days starting the date of approval. The council on Dec. 6 approved a 180-day moratorium on medical marijuana facilities.

Both moratoriums were suggested by the Planning Board in October. The board said the town should wait to act until after the Nov. 8 statewide referendum on the legalization of recreational marijuana, which narrowly passed.

In other business, councilors held a second goal-setting session where they narrowed a list of eight goals for the upcoming year to five. Chairwoman Sarah Tracy said she will redraft the five targets and present them for final approval Jan. 3.

Most of the goals discussed were reiterations of goals set for this year, with one exception: exploration of ways to reduce energy costs and the town’s carbon footprint. 

Among the repeat goals, councilors decided it is still important to maintain a stable tax rate and provide high-quality services to residents while using available resources. 

Councilor Lee Arris suggested altering the goal to state that the Town Council will have a flat tax rate in the upcoming year. He said the goal as written was “bland” and “general.”

“A more specific goal would be more measurable,” he said.

Other councilors said they didn’t want to set a specific budget number as a goal, since the budget process hasn’t begun. Councilor Melanie Sachs said the word “stable” has guided the town well in the past.

“Having this as our No. 1 goal has translated to department heads being very mindful,” she said. “It’s been effective.”

Councilor Peter Anzuini agreed that setting a specific budget goal early could make it difficult to create an effective budget. He added, though, that “at some point we need to determine what ‘stable’ means.”

Although it wasn’t voted on officially, most councilors said they wanted to use the word “stable” instead of “flat.”

A second goal, which was also a goal this year, is to have transparent communication between the town and the residents.

Councilors also said they will again try to better engage residents in town government and operations, but decided to expand upon the goal next year: They discussed implementing a communications plan that is already in place, and increasing voter turnout and attendance at meetings.

The council also carried over a goal of maintaining a strong relationship with the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors, as well as with surrounding municipalities.

Three other goals were proposed as well, but the majority of councilors said they didn’t want to officially pursue them. Instead, the ideas became action items to be forwarded to other committees or groups.

One is addressing the local infestation of browntail moths. The town has already been doing research on the issue and sharing information with residents, which it will continue to do.

The second is developing a consistent strategy for the town’s trail system to make trails more uniform in maintenance and signage. This action item will be passed on to the Freeport Active Living Committee and the Conservation Commission.

The last issue is exploring the implementation of public Wi-Fi downtown, which will be sent the Freeport Economic Development Corp. or Freeport USA.

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

Freeport Town Manager Peter Joseph (far left) and the Town Council (left to right Councilors Lee Arris, Peter Anzuini, Scott Gleeson, Sarah Tracy, Melanie Sachs, John Egan, and Bill Rixon) met Dec. 20 to discuss goals for 2017.

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.