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Topsham selectmen build special Town Meeting warrant

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Topsham selectmen build special Town Meeting warrant

TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen on Dec. 16 approved several February 2011 special Town Meeting warrant items, including an ordinance governing medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Planning Board in October unanimously recommended zoning changes that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries as a conditional use in Topsham's Mixed Use Commercial and Business Park districts. This placement essentially confines the dispensaries to the Topsham Fair Mall and an undeveloped area on the northwest side of the interchange of Interstate 295 and Route 196.

The amendments define a dispensary and dictate where and when it can operate. The Board of Selectmen supported draft ordinance language barring dispensaries from being within 500 feet of lots used for residences, playgrounds, schools or parks; it also voted to add churches to the list. Dispensaries would also have to be at least 1,000 feet away from the boundary line of other dispensaries.

The facilities could be open at most 12 hours a day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., not counting hours for medical marijuana cultivation.

Residents at Town Meeting in May voted for a 180-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, which gave the town time to develop a local ordinance. The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously last month to extend the moratorium for six more months. But the moratorium will end if voters at the special Town Meeting support the dispensary ordinance, Town Manager Jim Ashe said.

Residents will also decide whether to adopt an ordinance establishing a Property Assessed Clean Energy program. The program is required for property owners to be eligible for PACE loans, which come from federal funds administered by the Efficiency Maine Trust. The loans go toward increasing a home's energy efficiency.

Voters in February will also decide whether to accept Paxton Lane as a public road. The road serves the Paxton Woods Subdivision, which is located off of West Merrill Road. The Planning Board determined in August that Paxton Lane has been built to town standards.

Because there is a chance another item could be added to the special Town Meeting warrant, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to change the original meting date of Jan. 12, 2011, to Feb. 16, 2011.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.