SOUTH PORTLAND — City councilors on Oct. 23 said they need more time to consider proposed ordinance amendments that would regulate medical marijuana retail businesses.
The City Council also reviewed a draft performance evaluation for the corporation counsel, with the hope of trying out the new method when two new councilors are seated after November’s election.
At their Sept. 18 meeting, the council sent the marijuana zoning ordinance amendments back to workshop to address the definition of “school” as it relates to sensitive use setbacks, and how the odor emitted from marijuana establishments should be managed and regulated.
The draft zoning and licensing amendments include defining types of medical marijuana businesses and the commercial and industrial zoning districts where the businesses would be allowed.
Cultivation facilities may also be allowed to sell some product.
The ordinance amendments provide that “no medical marijuana store, medical marijuana retail store … or dispensary shall be sited within 1,000 feet of the lot lines of a public or private school.” However, “public or private” school is not explicitly defined and councilors debated whether the definition should include establishments such as preschool and childcare facilities.
During Planning Board review, concern was raised that it may be unrealistic to prevent odors at the exterior of a building. Instead, it was suggested that the odor not be perceptible at the property line and for odor control plans to be provided by developers during the Planning Board review process.
Councilors agreed that the proposed requirements for odor management sufficed.
Councilor Eben Rose said he would like clarification on how setbacks are measured, if, for instance, it would be from the building or the lot line.
Councilor Kate Lewis asked what was trying to be accomplished by adding the buffers, saying if the purpose is keeping kids away from medical marijuana establishments there should be buffers around the city’s two community centers and the Boys & Girls Club, where “unsupervised kids gather en masse.”
Councilor Susan Henderson agreed, saying her “priority” would be buffering those establishments. That being said, Henderson said she was “angry” the city was spending so much time talking about marijuana rather than what she feels are more pertinent issues, such as affordable housing.
“I’m not opposed to marijuana … but I’m not wanting to get on that economic bandwagon when we don’t have places to live or health care,” she said.
Rose said he, too, wasn’t sure what the goal was.
“If we want to make a healthy environment, super-extended buffers are just a proxy,” he said, suggesting the city align buffer regulations with those for establishments selling alcohol.
Some councilors said they thought buffers should be the same as what they are for churches and other religious establishments – 300 feet.
Mayor Linda Cohen said she thought including childcare centers would “go too far.”
“Anyone can have daycare in their homes,” she noted.
Rose also said he would not like childcare facilities included in the definition of “schools.”
Assistant City Manager Joshua Reny said he’d come back to the council with multiple versions of the ordinance, including one that would require buffers for childcare facilities, including community centers, as “a starting point” to be considered. Also provided, he said, will be detailed maps showing different bufferings overlayed on maps depicting where in town zoning medical marijuana establishments would be allowed.
The proposed zoning amendments will require another first reading, possibly on Nov. 8, followed by a Planning Board public hearing and later a second reading by the council before a vote.
During their workshop, councilors provided Morelli with draft recommendations for how to review their legal adviser.
The review process came before the board after Councilor Eben Rose alleged last month that Corporation Counsel Sally Daggett lifted wording from a California company’s memorandum that discussed how cities and towns should approach short-term rental ordinances.
Daggett was originally slated for a performance evaluation Oct. 23, but before that could happen the council must adopt the procedure for conducting the review and the standards to be applied.
A few weeks ago, councilors were provided with examples of evaluation forms from other municipalities, including Brunswick, Portland and cities in California.
As drafted, the eight-page review gives the option to check off either excellent, good, fair or poor regarding topics such as quality of advice, relations with the council and professionalism.
During Tuesday’s review, Morelli noted multiple suggestions made by councilors, such as providing a fifth box for those who don’t know enough to answer a given question; allowing other boards and committees who interact with the attorney regularly to give input; requiring reasoning behind answers; and collating councilors responses in writing and sharing those in executive session.
Some of the questions, Henderson said, are redundant.
Councilor Maxine Beecher said the draft is “probably as well written as we’d want.”
“This certainly seems a whole lot more specific than any evaluation of an individual that I have ever seen,” she said. “It’s pretty comprehensive.”
Still, Morelli said he’d include those suggestions in an updated document and share them with the council before scheduling the review. Councilors indicated that they’d prefer holding the evaluation after the new council is seated in November, with an opportunity for outgoing councilors Eben and Cohen to provide written feedback for consideration.