Topsham voters OK rules for medi-pot dispensaries

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TOPSHAM — An ordinance regulating the development of medical marijuana dispensaries was among five articles that 40 voters approved Wednesday in a  15-minute special Town Meeting.

The Planning Board in October unanimously recommended zoning changes that would permit medical marijuana dispensaries as a conditional use in Topsham’s Mixed Use Commercial and Business Park districts.

That essentially confines the dispensaries to the Topsham Fair Mall and an undeveloped area on the northwest side of the intersection of Interstate 295 and Route 196.

The ordinance bars dispensaries from being within 500 feet of lots used for homes, playgrounds, schools, churches or parks. Dispensaries must also be at least 1,000 feet from the boundary line of other dispensaries.

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

Voters at Town Meeting last May approved 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 November to extend the moratorium for six more months.

Wednesday’s vote – which followed an explanation of the item by Planning Board Chairman Don Spann, but had no discussion – brings that moratorium to an end.

With an equal lack of comment, residents will also adopted 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 boosting home energy efficiency.

Town Planner Rich Roedner noted in a memo last November that along with adopting the ordinance, in order to be eligible for the loans the town would also have to commit to an education program, which would be carried out by the Sustainable Topsham Committee and the Maine Green Energy Alliance.

But Roedner said on Wednesday that with the recent demise of MGEA – which had a contract through Efficiency Maine to help homeowners get energy audits and retrofits – he expects Efficiency Maine to step in to assist with the educational component.

“I don’t think the change in the players is going to affect things,” he said.

Residents, who voted on items with a show of hands, also accepted Paxton Lane as a public road, and they approved an ordinance that regulates the development of addiction treatment facilities. The ordinance is similar to the one governing medical marijuana dispensaries, although it calls for the patient entrance to the treatment facilities to be at least 500 feet from any property in a residential zone, and at least 1,500 feet from a property housing another addiction treatment facility.

The meeting’s turnout represented about half of 1 percent of Topsham’s eligible voters.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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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.