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PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

AYER — Monday’s Special Town Meeting drew enough voters to make a quorum, and then some.

But it was the resounding ‘no’ that echoed through the Ayer Shirley Regional High School following a spirited debate on Article 2 that confirmed the head count.

The article asked voters to amend the town’s zoning laws to create a temporary moratorium on “medical marijuana treatment centers.” The term “treatment center,” however, is a misnomer: under state regulations finalized in April, medical marijuana dispensaries, where the drug is controlled and regulated, would be allowed to sell the medication. Patients would not be treated at the locations.

“We’re going to keep a tight rein on debate and take only questions about the moratorium and how long it would be,” said Town Moderator Tom Horgan Jr., opening the discussion after voters quickly and easily passed the first article. That article authorized the town to spend $8.8 million to fund its assessment for the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District.

“This will not be a discussion of the benefits or vices of marijuana,” Horgan said.

Horgan is a new moderator with roughly six weeks on the job, and he had his hands full. Several times, he politely, but firmly, asked a speaker to stick to the topic. At one point, he broke a filibuster by asking a woman to take her seat, a request she ignored until the moderator, his face reddening, ordered her to sit.

Selectmen Chairman Pauline Conley, who was sitting on the stage, moved the question on the moratorium.

“I’d like to remind you that at the 2006 Annual Town Meeting, the town certified a healthcare services zoning district,” Conley said, arguing for a moratorium. “The purpose of the moratorium is to allow the Planning Board time to consider amending the healthcare services zoning district, to create a new one or limit dispensaries of this type.”

Conley said a 90-day moratorium would allow the town to go to “Plan B” and amend the zoning bylaw during another Special Town Meeting. Warrant article two asked voters to approve a one-year delay on permitting a medical marijuana dispensary to open in town. Initial discussion centered on the length of the moratorium.

During a recent public hearing, the Planning Board voted to support a 90-day delay. Some supporters of the moratorium argued for six months or longer.

Under state law, a community may delay the process, but it may not ban a dispensary from opening within its borders. In November, 63 percent of Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question permitting medical marijuana dispensaries and roughly the same percentage of Ayer voters supported the question.

State regulations, released in late May, limit dispensaries to five per county. Some observers speculate that a spate of moratoriums passed in recent weeks in communities around Boston are stalling tactics.

“The whole idea of the moratorium is that this is something we need time to study and look at,” said Conley.

Selectman Gary Luca, also sitting on the stage, disagreed.

“I am not for amending the bylaw. I am not for a moratorium,” Luca said. “This is a pro-business town. We’re looking for business to move in … I read the 54 pages of state regulations and (a dispensary operator) has to put up half a million dollars (in escrow fees). I strongly suggest you vote against the moratorium.”

Voter Christine Logan recommended amending the article to create a six-month moratorium. Logan, who spoke at the Planning Board’s public hearing, is against having a medical-marijuana dispensary in the town’s business district. She has suggested that the town establish a zoning area, similar to what it did with adult entertainment.

By contrast, Pam Papineau, a member of the Board of Health, objected to the six-month stay and asked voters to support a 90-day moratorium. Her comments drew a loud round of applause.

“This was not a surprise,” Papineau said. “We have had since January 1 to make provisions. Ninety days is plenty. We’ve already used six months.”

The vote was swift and decisive. Moderator Horgan called the question on whether to approve a year-long moratorium. A chorus of “nos” filled the auditorium. The vote was confirmed with a hand count: Voters stood holding purple or blue cards while an official walked up and down the aisles counting.

“We have 45 “yes” and 93 “no,” the moderator announced. “The moratorium fails.”

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.

Voters refuse moratorium by two-to-one
Voters refuse moratorium by two-to-one
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

AYER — Monday’s Special Town Meeting drew enough voters to make a quorum, and then some.

But it was the resounding ‘no’ that echoed through the Ayer Shirley Regional High School following a spirited debate on Article 2 that confirmed the head count.

The article asked voters to amend the town’s zoning laws to create a temporary moratorium on “medical marijuana treatment centers.” The term “treatment center,” however, is a misnomer: under state regulations finalized in April, medical marijuana dispensaries, where the drug is controlled and regulated, would be allowed to sell the medication. Patients would not be treated at the locations.

“We’re going to keep a tight rein on debate and take only questions about the moratorium and how long it would be,” said Town Moderator Tom Horgan Jr., opening the discussion after voters quickly and easily passed the first article. That article authorized the town to spend $8.8 million to fund its assessment for the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District.

“This will not be a discussion of the benefits or vices of marijuana,” Horgan said.

Horgan is a new moderator with roughly six weeks on the job, and he had his hands full. Several times, he politely, but firmly, asked a speaker to stick to the topic. At one point, he broke a filibuster by asking a woman to take her seat, a request she ignored until the moderator, his face reddening, ordered her to sit.

Selectmen Chairman Pauline Conley, who was sitting on the stage, moved the question on the moratorium.

“I’d like to remind you that at the 2006 Annual Town Meeting, the town certified a healthcare services zoning district,” Conley said, arguing for a moratorium. “The purpose of the moratorium is to allow the Planning Board time to consider amending the healthcare services zoning district, to create a new one or limit dispensaries of this type.”

Conley said a 90-day moratorium would allow the town to go to “Plan B” and amend the zoning bylaw during another Special Town Meeting. Warrant article two asked voters to approve a one-year delay on permitting a medical marijuana dispensary to open in town. Initial discussion centered on the length of the moratorium.

During a recent public hearing, the Planning Board voted to support a 90-day delay. Some supporters of the moratorium argued for six months or longer.

Under state law, a community may delay the process, but it may not ban a dispensary from opening within its borders. In November, 63 percent of Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question permitting medical marijuana dispensaries and roughly the same percentage of Ayer voters supported the question.

State regulations, released in late May, limit dispensaries to five per county. Some observers speculate that a spate of moratoriums passed in recent weeks in communities around Boston are stalling tactics.

“The whole idea of the moratorium is that this is something we need time to study and look at,” said Conley.

Selectman Gary Luca, also sitting on the stage, disagreed.

“I am not for amending the bylaw. I am not for a moratorium,” Luca said. “This is a pro-business town. We’re looking for business to move in … I read the 54 pages of state regulations and (a dispensary operator) has to put up half a million dollars (in escrow fees). I strongly suggest you vote against the moratorium.”

Voter Christine Logan recommended amending the article to create a six-month moratorium. Logan, who spoke at the Planning Board’s public hearing, is against having a medical-marijuana dispensary in the town’s business district. She has suggested that the town establish a zoning area, similar to what it did with adult entertainment.

By contrast, Pam Papineau, a member of the Board of Health, objected to the six-month stay and asked voters to support a 90-day moratorium. Her comments drew a loud round of applause.

“This was not a surprise,” Papineau said. “We have had since January 1 to make provisions. Ninety days is plenty. We’ve already used six months.”

The vote was swift and decisive. Moderator Horgan called the question on whether to approve a year-long moratorium. A chorus of “nos” filled the auditorium. The vote was confirmed with a hand count: Voters stood holding purple or blue cards while an official walked up and down the aisles counting.

“We have 45 “yes” and 93 “no,” the moderator announced. “The moratorium fails.”

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.

Voters refuse moratorium by two-to-one
Voters refuse moratorium by two-to-one
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

AYER — Monday’s Special Town Meeting drew enough voters to make a quorum, and then some.

But it was the resounding ‘no’ that echoed through the Ayer Shirley Regional High School following a spirited debate on Article 2 that confirmed the head count.

The article asked voters to amend the town’s zoning laws to create a temporary moratorium on “medical marijuana treatment centers.” The term “treatment center,” however, is a misnomer: under state regulations finalized in April, medical marijuana dispensaries, where the drug is controlled and regulated, would be allowed to sell the medication. Patients would not be treated at the locations.

“We’re going to keep a tight rein on debate and take only questions about the moratorium and how long it would be,” said Town Moderator Tom Horgan Jr., opening the discussion after voters quickly and easily passed the first article. That article authorized the town to spend $8.8 million to fund its assessment for the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District.

“This will not be a discussion of the benefits or vices of marijuana,” Horgan said.

Horgan is a new moderator with roughly six weeks on the job, and he had his hands full. Several times, he politely, but firmly, asked a speaker to stick to the topic. At one point, he broke a filibuster by asking a woman to take her seat, a request she ignored until the moderator, his face reddening, ordered her to sit.

Selectmen Chairman Pauline Conley, who was sitting on the stage, moved the question on the moratorium.

“I’d like to remind you that at the 2006 Annual Town Meeting, the town certified a healthcare services zoning district,” Conley said, arguing for a moratorium. “The purpose of the moratorium is to allow the Planning Board time to consider amending the healthcare services zoning district, to create a new one or limit dispensaries of this type.”

Conley said a 90-day moratorium would allow the town to go to “Plan B” and amend the zoning bylaw during another Special Town Meeting. Warrant article two asked voters to approve a one-year delay on permitting a medical marijuana dispensary to open in town. Initial discussion centered on the length of the moratorium.

During a recent public hearing, the Planning Board voted to support a 90-day delay. Some supporters of the moratorium argued for six months or longer.

Under state law, a community may delay the process, but it may not ban a dispensary from opening within its borders. In November, 63 percent of Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question permitting medical marijuana dispensaries and roughly the same percentage of Ayer voters supported the question.

State regulations, released in late May, limit dispensaries to five per county. Some observers speculate that a spate of moratoriums passed in recent weeks in communities around Boston are stalling tactics.

“The whole idea of the moratorium is that this is something we need time to study and look at,” said Conley.

Selectman Gary Luca, also sitting on the stage, disagreed.

“I am not for amending the bylaw. I am not for a moratorium,” Luca said. “This is a pro-business town. We’re looking for business to move in … I read the 54 pages of state regulations and (a dispensary operator) has to put up half a million dollars (in escrow fees). I strongly suggest you vote against the moratorium.”

Voter Christine Logan recommended amending the article to create a six-month moratorium. Logan, who spoke at the Planning Board’s public hearing, is against having a medical-marijuana dispensary in the town’s business district. She has suggested that the town establish a zoning area, similar to what it did with adult entertainment.

By contrast, Pam Papineau, a member of the Board of Health, objected to the six-month stay and asked voters to support a 90-day moratorium. Her comments drew a loud round of applause.

“This was not a surprise,” Papineau said. “We have had since January 1 to make provisions. Ninety days is plenty. We’ve already used six months.”

The vote was swift and decisive. Moderator Horgan called the question on whether to approve a year-long moratorium. A chorus of “nos” filled the auditorium. The vote was confirmed with a hand count: Voters stood holding purple or blue cards while an official walked up and down the aisles counting.

“We have 45 “yes” and 93 “no,” the moderator announced. “The moratorium fails.”

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.