Special Topsham Town Meeting to tackle marijuana moratorium, Route 196 signs

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TOPSHAM — A special Town Meeting on marijuana-related moratoriums and business directional signs will be held Wednesday, Dec. 6.

The meeting will be held at the Topsham Public Library, 25 Foreside Road, at 7 p.m. The meeting warrant can be viewed at topshammaine.com.

The town is expected to enact a six-month freeze on new medical marijuana providers. The moratorium, retroactive to Oct. 19 and prompted by interest town staff has heard about such businesses being opened, would allow the town some time to adopt regulations.

A freeze on retail marijuana sales – which followed the narrow passage last November of a statewide referendum to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana as an agricultural product – was approved at Town Meeting in May, and would be extended at next month’s meeting.

High Brow, a retail operation that sells handmade glass pipes, opened recently at Topsham Fair Mall. The business has, as an accessory use, a medical marijuana caregiver operation for up to five clients; such clinics are allowed by state statute, Town Manager Rich Roedner said last month.

Town staff has also been approached by other medical marijuana providers about opening storefronts operated by caregivers, according to Roedner.

Topsham officials are concerned that once the state has established its retail marijuana legislation, these medical marijuana operations may be able to expand to retail operations, for which there are no town regulations.

The Dec. 6 meeting will also ask voters to approve a zoning ordinance amendment regarding official business directional signs. Topsham currently requires such signs to have green backgrounds with white letters, but state and federal rules mandate such signs to have blue backgrounds on certain roads.

In Topsham’s case, only Route 196 – a federal aid highway – is affected, Roedner said in an interview Monday.

Topsham would still require green signs following the ordinance change, except when state and federal regulations require something different, the manager said.

Tom Lister, the town’s code enforcement officer, said Monday that the “overwhelming majority” of OBD signs along Route 196 are green. Because of the town’s restriction on green signs, no new OBD signs can be installed on Route 196 without the ordinance change, through which new signs on that corridor would have to be blue.

Lister noted that the Maine Department of Transportation has informed him that a target date of 2020 exists for all OBD signs to be blue, but that “any existing sign can remain until replaced electively or out of structural need.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.