Town meeting takes no action on recreational pot Town meeting takes no action on recreational pot facilities

Town meeting takes no action on recreational pot Town meeting takes no action on recreational pot facilities
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TOWNSEND — Two types of green were discussed at length on Tuesday night: money and marijuana.

Both topics hosted the longest discussions during Townsend’s five-hour annual town meeting at Town Hall.

Nearly 40 articles were discussed and voted on by residents that covered everything from funding town construction projects to zoning bylaws. Voters asked questions and made comments about the articles on this year’s warrant in front of the town Finance Committee, Board of Selectmen, Moderator John Barrett and Administrator James Kreidler.

Money was the issue that appeared the most on the warrant, with residents specifically concerned about the public safety section of the town’s 2020 operating budget of $23 million. That section, which makes up $3 million of the town’s approved budget, was brought up by residents concerned about whether or not the town is offering competitive wages for those interested in joining the town police department.

Chief Richard Bailey, who was also approved by voters to stay chief until June 30, 2025, noted that the department currently has eight positions filled with two vacancies. That point brought up more concern from residents as to whether or not the town is actively searching to fill those open positions in the department.

Sue Lisio, chair of the Board of Selectmen, noted how the board has spoken with the police department about the lengthy process involved with bringing new officers on the force. She also pointed out how even towns that offer higher salaries are having trouble hiring new officers as well.

“It’s a hiring problem,” Lisio said. “It’s not for lack of trying. Next April you’re going to go to the polls and there will be a selectmen position open and it’s your responsibility to elect a person that puts up their hand and say they’re willing to do the job for you.”

Residents ended up approving that section of the operating budget.

This year’s warrant also contained eight articles covering the town’s stance on permitting recreational marijuana facilities. Articles 26 through 32 asked residents to vote on amending town zoning bylaws to prohibit the establishment of marijuana cultivators, product manufacturers, retailers, testing facilities, research facilities, transportation and distribution facilities and other recreational marijuana-related facilities. Article 33 asked the town to vote on amending the zoning bylaw covering establishment zoning for recreational marijuana facilities with the establishments mentioned either allowed or banned. The room was nearly split in half on whether or not the marijuana facilities should be banned, with some residents voicing their opinions on how marijuana business would impact traffic flow and the community as a whole while others see marijuana shops as an opportunity to bring in new revenue and support local businesses.

“A lot of you think marijuana brings a lot riff-raff but it really doesn’t,” local resident Shirley Wyatt said. “You can’t base your opinion on this from the 1960s anymore, think about the added revenue that can be brought into the town. We can’t keep raising our taxes. I’m asking you to please keep an open mind.”

Articles 26, 27 and 28 did not pass by a two-thirds majority and, due to how the meeting was stretching well past midnight, residents called for a motion to adjourn the meeting to Thursday at 7 p.m. That vote was 61 to 62, continuing the meeting and causing nearly half the meeting hall to up and leave.

That departing party was apparently all of those in favor of banning the marijuana facilities because, after it was determined the meeting had a quorum, the remaining audience moved to take no action on the remaining five articles that would’ve banned marijuana facilities.

The town also made two more major money moves during last night’s meeting that both earned approval. The first was a debt exclusion to borrow $5.1 million for a three-year town-wide Pavement Management Plan, which is meant to repair multiple town roadways. Kreidler said the financial backing for the plan would come from state funding, free cash reserves and excise tax revenues, with taxes for residents in homes assessed at $250,000 being raised by $36.95. The other approved vote was for the raising and appropriation of $200,000 to redesign and reconstruct the Greenville Road Bridge.

The meeting’s final article approved by the quorum was a bylaw amendment banning thin-film single-use plastic bags by all town retail and grocery stores by August 1 this year.

TOWNSEND — Two types of green were discussed at length on Tuesday night: money and marijuana.

Both topics hosted the longest discussions during Townsend’s five-hour annual town meeting at Town Hall.

Nearly 40 articles were discussed and voted on by residents that covered everything from funding town construction projects to zoning bylaws. Voters asked questions and made comments about the articles on this year’s warrant in front of the town Finance Committee, Board of Selectmen, Moderator John Barrett and Administrator James Kreidler.

Money was the issue that appeared the most on the warrant, with residents specifically concerned about the public safety section of the town’s 2020 operating budget of $23 million. That section, which makes up $3 million of the town’s approved budget, was brought up by residents concerned about whether or not the town is offering competitive wages for those interested in joining the town police department.

Chief Richard Bailey, who was also approved by voters to stay chief until June 30, 2025, noted that the department currently has eight positions filled with two vacancies. That point brought up more concern from residents as to whether or not the town is actively searching to fill those open positions in the department.

Sue Lisio, chair of the Board of Selectmen, noted how the board has spoken with the police department about the lengthy process involved with bringing new officers on the force. She also pointed out how even towns that offer higher salaries are having trouble hiring new officers as well.

“It’s a hiring problem,” Lisio said. “It’s not for lack of trying. Next April you’re going to go to the polls and there will be a selectman position open and it’s your responsibility to elect a person that puts up their hand and say they’re willing to do the job for you.”

Residents ended up approving that section of the operating budget.

This year’s warrant also contained eight articles covering the town’s stance on permitting recreational marijuana facilities. Articles 26 through 32 asked residents to vote on amending town zoning bylaws to prohibit the establishment of marijuana cultivators, product manufacturers, retailers, testing facilities, research facilities, transportation and distribution facilities and other recreational marijuana-related facilities. Article 33 asked the town to vote on amending the zoning bylaw covering establishment zoning for recreational marijuana facilities with the establishments mentioned either allowed or banned. The room was nearly split equally on whether the marijuana facilities should be banned, with some residents voicing their opinions on how marijuana business would impact traffic flow and the community as a whole while others see marijuana shops as an opportunity to bring in new revenue and support local businesses.

“A lot of you think marijuana brings a lot riff-raff but it really doesn’t,” local resident Shirley Wyatt said. “You can’t base your opinion on this from the 1960s anymore, think about the added revenue that can be brought into the town. We can’t keep raising our taxes. I’m asking you to please keep an open mind.”

Articles 26, 27 and 28 did not pass by a two-thirds majority and, due to how the meeting was stretching well past midnight, residents called for a motion to adjourn the meeting to Thursday at 7 p.m. That vote was 61 to 62, continuing the meeting and causing nearly half the meeting hall to up and leave.

That departing party was apparently all of those in favor of banning the marijuana facilities because, after it was determined the meeting had a quorum, the remaining audience moved to take no action on the remaining five articles that would’ve banned marijuana facilities.

The town also made two more major money moves during last night’s meeting that both earned approval. The first was a debt exclusion to borrow $5.1 million for a three-year town-wide Pavement Management Plan, which is meant to repair multiple town roadways.

Kreidler said the financial backing for the plan would come from state funding, free cash reserves and excise tax revenues, with taxes for residents in homes assessed at $250,000 being raised by $36.95. The other approved vote was for the raising and appropriation of $200,000 to redesign and reconstruct the Greenville Road Bridge.

The meeting’s final article approved by the quorum was a bylaw amendment banning thin-film single-use plastic bags by all town retail and grocery stores by Aug. 1 this year.