South Portland closer to rules for medical marijuana businesses

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council unanimously approved amendments to a proposed ordinance regulating medical marijuana retail businesses during a first reading Nov. 20.

The amended ordinance must now go back to the Planning Board for a public hearing and will return to the council Dec. 18 for a second reading and final approval.

The amendments would allow medical marijuana establishments in certain zoning districts throughout the city and would align with zoning policy for adult-use marijuana businesses, as adopted in 2017.

With the approved amendments in place, the odor of marijuana may not be detectable off-premise, which Assistant City Manager Joshua Reny said primarily applies to cultivation facilities. Further, applicants would be required to provide an odor control plan to the city.

Councilors unanimously agreed that the definition of “school” as it relates to sensitive use setbacks would be classified as the state defines them, meaning marijuana facilities may not be opened within 1,000 feet of a public or private school housing grades pre-K through 12.

The council was also in favor of a 300-foot setback from the city’s two community centers, the Boys & Girls Club, child care facilities, family child care providers, Southern Maine Community College and Wainwright Athletic Complex.

The council originally reviewed proposed amendments at a workshop on July 24, moved them along to the Planning Board for a public hearing on Aug. 8, and subsequently passed the first reading on Aug. 21.

At the second reading on Sept. 18, questions were raised about how the city would define a school as it relates to the performance standard requiring setbacks from certain sensitive uses, as well as the performance standard related to odor management. The item was postponed in order to discuss the issues in greater detail at a workshop.

On Oct. 23, the Council held a workshop to discuss the sensitive use and odor management issues. With council recommendations in hand, staff prepared several amendments for councilors to consider at the second reading, including how to address the definition of “school,” and how the odor emitted from marijuana establishments should be managed and regulated.

In other business, it was announced Tuesday that the city’s West End Neighborhood Master Plan won two Outstanding Plan of the Year awards.

Carol Eyerman, president of the Maine Association of Planners and Maine State Director of the Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association, presented the city with the awards Tuesday.

The first was from the Maine Association of Planners in June. In October recognition was received from the Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association.

The West End Plan aims to revitalize the area encompassing the Redbank and Brick Hill neighborhoods and parts of Westbrook Street and Western Avenue, in part by improving streets and sidewalks, creating new recreational opportunities and keeping the area affordable.

Both the Plan and accompanying zoning changes were adopted by the council in September 2017.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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