GRAY — The Gray Town Council reconsidered standards for medical marijuana caregivers in four zones at its meeting Tuesday night.
The council first implemented a moratorium on retail and medical marijuana uses in August 2018 and used the intervening months to craft language for ordinances regarding marijuana.
When the moratorium was repealed in May, the language went into effect.
However, Community Development Director Doug Webster said, “We didn’t appreciate the cumulative implication” of some of the standards.
So on Tuesday, he proposed some changes to the standards for registered caregivers and registered caregiver cultivation facilities in four districts: Business Districts 1 and 2, Commercial and Village Center.
Registered caregivers and caregiver cultivation facilities are the only marijuana entities allowed in town, as the Council has banned all other uses. They must be in the four designated zones and meet certain requirements, including setbacks from schools and daycares.
Webster on Tuesday proposed changes to regulations regarding the size of the setbacks and how they’re measured.
He first proposed reducing the required 500-foot setback, as measured from property line to property line, to 200 feet.
Under current regulations, he said, any property with one or more boundaries within 500 feet of a district that does not allow medical marijuana uses – such as the Village Center Proper district – is prohibited from having such uses.
For example, a tenant in Gray Plaza hopes to open a registered caregiver operation there, but the Village Center district is surrounded by districts that do not allow medical marijuana uses, so he is unable to.
Webster also proposed that instead of measuring setbacks from property line to property line, they be measured in a different way, such as between driveways.
These changes, he said, “would open up more properties in the Village Center zone, as well as BD-1 and BD-2 and Commercial, for the limited medical marijuana uses.”
The town is trying to open up a sufficient number of properties for registered caregivers because caregivers must be allowed in a municipality as required by state statute.
In addition, a municipality’s performance standards for caregivers must not be so restrictive as to adversely affect the business, Webster said.
But Gray’s current regulations, as Webster wrote in a memo to Town Manager Deb Cabana, “translates to allowing only a few properties in the” Village Center district.
Councilor Dan Maguire said he supported changing the manner in which setbacks are measured, but not decreasing the setback to 200 feet, and Councilor Sharon Young agreed.
“If we open the door a little further, but we don’t throw it wide open, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. … We’re perfectly fine with being reasonably restrictive in our thinking,” she said.
Maguire asked Webster if there were properties in these zones that could effectively meet the regulations if only the second part of the proposal were approved.
“It’s quite a bit more limited. There are properties,” Webster answered.
He continued, “My understanding was that the council was intending to allow the limited medical marijuana uses in the Village Center, and I’m pointing out that inadvertently because of the surrounding districts, the cumulative effect of those is severely limiting Village Center properties that meet those standards.”
Councilor Jason Wilson felt that the council was dwelling over decisions it had already made.
“We got a legal opinion, gave our intentions, had you work on it, you came up with solutions and now we’re kind of like Lucy with the football and you’re Charlie Brown,” he said to Webster.
He and Council Chairman Bruce Foshay supported implementing both parts of Webster’s proposal.
The Council said it would entertain the possibility of moving forward with the second part of the proposal, and Webster said he would work on it further, perhaps creating a specific setback for the Village Center district.
In an interview Wednesday, Webster said, “The goal here is to ensure the town has a sufficient number of properties that allow registered caregivers and their associated cultivation facilities in the districts where it’s allowed.”
Councilors appeared divided on whether the proposal would be too restrictive and on how to best allow registered caregivers to work in the community.
“Being overly restrictive is one thing, but being restrictive for the right reasons is an entirely different thing,” Young said.
Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at [email protected]
Councilor Sharon Young explains her position on Community Development Director Doug Webster’s proposed changes.