YARMOUTH — The Town Council will vote Dec. 21 on whether to permanently ban retail marijuana establishments and social clubs.
At a workshop on Dec. 7, councilors also discussed a “Solarize Yarmouth” program and slowed momentum on potential updates to the town’s solid waste management system.
In August, the town approved a six-month moratorium on all retail marijuana establishments, which is set to expire in February. The proposed ordinance would make that moratorium permanent.
Town Manager Nat Tupper said the ban wouldn’t affect medical marijuana distribution or possession in small, legal doses.
Police Chief Michael Morrill said it was important the council implement a ban, calling it a legal and moral issue.
“By not imposing a ban, I believe our community is giving passive approval that it is OK to sell and use marijuana,” he said, adding that the topic could be revisited and reversed at any time in the future.
Councilor April Humphrey said she was torn because Mainers voted to legalize marijuana sales statewide in a referendum vote in November 2016.
Humphrey introduced the idea of a “solarize project” at an Operations Committee meeting in August, which reflects what has been done in nearby towns such as Freeport and Bath.
In such a program, the town would provide a joint purchasing option for solar panels from a selected provider for residents and businesses, which would help reduce the cost of installation.
Economic Development Director Scott LaFlamme said it is not a new concept; he set up and administered a multi-town solarize project for the Mid-Coast when he worked for the city of Bath.
LaFlamme said the town would function as an organizing agency and intermediary between the public and selected solar installers but would have little to no liability and no financial obligations.
According to LaFlamme, the town would not have an active role in the program once a Request for Qualifications such as price, capacity, and timetable was crafted and installation was launched.
He added that timing is important because the state is considering regulatory changes to the way net metering is credited to the homeowner, which currently stands at 100 percent of the value of their energy. LaFlamme said this total is likely to decline.
“It’s a sense of urgency to get in while the getting is good,” he said, noting that residents who invest in solar panels now will be locked into their net metering rate.
Councilor Richard Plourde suggested the program be “taken off the Council’s plate” and turned into a volunteer effort.
The Council will vote on whether to endorse the program on Dec. 21 and plans to discuss during an Operations Committee meeting how to gauge the public’s interest in a program.
Councilors will also further discuss needed upgrades and repairs to the town’s 30-year-old transfer station and recycling center during upcoming Operations Committee meetings.
At a council meeting Nov. 2, Public Works Director Erik Street posed two potential options crafted by the town’s recycling committee.
Both options include a “pay-as-you-throw” component, in which residents would purchase bags for trash disposal and recycling would be free: the more recycling, the smaller the expense for trash bags.
Option one would implement “pay as you throw” with upgrades to the transfer station – such as the addition of a second compactor for recycling and eliminating the silver bullets.
The second option would implement “pay as you throw” and automated curbside collection.
However, on Thursday, Street suggested the council hold off on implementing either until after EcoMaine finishes pilot studies they’re conducting to explore potential regional waste collection.
“That’s all happening. It’s quickly coming,” he said. “I struggle with this a lot because I want to get going and move this stuff forward … but my recommendation is to wait for those studies to come out.”