Portland Planning Board considers marijuana zoning rules

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PORTLAND — Planning Board members on Tuesday were expected to forward a recommendation on new marijuana-related zoning changes to the full City Council.

“In addition to being responsive to changes in state law, the proposed amendments strive to balance both the needs and wishes of a burgeoning new sector of the local economy with reasonable limits on the location, size and performance standards,” Senior Planner Christine Grimando said in a Nov. 21 memo to the Planning Board.

One of the latest examples is a site plan filed Nov. 7 by Emile Clavet, representing 66 Milliken Street LLC, to convert at least 15,000 square feet of a vacant 45,700-square-foot warehouse off Riverside Industrial Parkway into medical marijuana growing, extraction and testing facilities.

City planning staff hope changes to add permitted uses, sizes and zones for retail marijuana sales, and revised regulations on growing and testing facilities will be in place when a moratorium on allowing new marijuana caregiver operations expires Dec. 13. 

The moratorium was enacted by councilors Oct. 1 as the city works to develop standards incorporating legalized marijuana. 

The new rules would affect 12 business and industrial zones while also setting some standards for small-scale marijuana caregivers who are working within their own homes. Caregiving operations would be limited to one person per dwelling unit.

While determining retailers would be set in business zones largely on the peninsula and along Forest, Brighton, Warren and Washington avenues, and Riverside Street, the licensing requirements for retail sales have not been created, Grimando said.

The zoning also does not address hours of operation or rules on deliveries, which Grimando said are better suited to permitting and licensing instead of land use.

Retail operations would be capped at 2,000 square feet, drive-thru service would not be allowed, and smoking or other ingestion of marijuana would not be allowed on the premises.

The city is working on licensing requirements now, but “the ultimate timing and final substance of which is contingent on state rulemaking,” Grimando said. 

The new zoning was discussed in a Nov. 13 workshop, and city staff amended the new rules to include size caps on retail operations and the “plant canopy,” defined by the state as the area of cultivation. Caps on canopies range from 2,000 square feet to 7,000 square feet, depending on the zone.

Grimando noted some regulations have been in place since 2010, when marijuana was legalized for medical use. Those rules and zones are the template for the new amendments, as medical and retail operations have been merged where possible.

This includes allowing retail stores and dispensaries in the same zones, Grimando said.

Cultivation, testing and manufacturing sites would be allowed in industrial areas where retail sales would not be permitted, including East Bayside, East Deering and along the city’s western boundary with Westbrook.

New zoning also requires establishment owners to have ventilation plans and provide odor control “so that odor generated on site is mitigated at the property line of the lot containing the marijuana-related use.”

David Harry can be reached at 780-9092 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

The Planning Board held a Nov. 27 hearing and made a recommendation on the depicted zoning changes regarding marijuana growth, processing and sales.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.