SHIRLEY -- An active minority -- 76 out of more than 4,000 registered voters -- became the deciding majority at the March 5 Special Town Meeting which centered on a single issue: marijuana. Specifically, 76 voters opened the door to recreational marijuana facilities in town and determined where and how they can operate, from business hours to locations where they can set up shop.
Those 76 voters rejected proposed bans on recreational marijuana enterprises in town which, had they been accepted, would have required ratification by ballot at a town-wide election.
The Planning Board worked for months on the six STM warrant articles, which the board voted to forward after a sparsely-attended public hearing in January.
When only one person showed up at the hearing, board members lamented the lack of public interest as the volunteer board tackled a thorny issue and tried to craft articles aligned with people's preferences. Over 200 people responded to an on-line survey, however.
The town will take another look at the 500-foot provision in the new bylaw, with an eye to making changes. The board has agreed to revisit the matter and present an updated version at the May 14 Town Meeting. One resident -- John Rounds -- promised he'd be there.
But another resident put the blame for the public's apparent apathy on town officials and a communication gap, She's searched for information and came up empty, she said.
Selectman Holly Haase returned the salvo. She defended the Planning Board and the town's recent track record, citing a new and improved town website and efforts of the newly formed Communications Committee to build a more reliable information pipeline between town hall and townspeople.
"The Planning Board is a volunteer board," she said. Its meetings are open to the public and posted on the town website, the official posting board for all public meetings. Planning Board meetings are also recorded by SPACO and aired later on Cable TV. Most BOS meetings air live.
"We do everything possible to let you know..." Haase said. "The Planning Board held a hearing and only one person came. It's also your responsibility to find out what's happening in town."