Voters Will Decide Fate Again In November
BAR HARBOR—In two consistent 9-6 votes, the Bar Harbor Warrant Committee at its September 1 meeting in Bar Harbor’s municipal building recommended that in November voters adopt changes to the town’s land use ordinance that would allow marijuana retail stores in downtown Bar Harbor and license them. Those changes came via a citizens’ petition. Another citizens’ petition concerning marijuana that was created by the same petitioners was rejected by voters this June.
The warrant committee reviews amendments and on the town ballot; its recommendations (or lack of recommendation) are printed on the ballot for voters to see.
At the meeting, committee member Eben Salvatore, voted against both measures, saying that one of the zones (Downtown Village I) didn’t require oversight or site plan review by the town’s planning board the way the other zones did and instead the application just went to the code enforcement office, which is less stringent.
Planner Director Michele Gagnon said that in that zone the stores would still require approval with the state and the town council.
Salvatore also said he worried about kids walking by retail stores on the way to the YMCA or to their schools. Seeing marijuana sold in stores, he worried, makes it more commonplace and accessible in kids’ minds and then in their bodies.
Committee member Allie Sassner said that she thought the more regulation there was, the less likely it was going to end up in kids’ hands and that it would take marijuana sales out of clandestine trades and sales on the Village Green.
“Marijuana is a big business in this country, and there’s nothing that protects us,” Salvatore said. “It should be a clean downtown where people can grow up and have fun.”
The state restricts the advertising of the marijuana businesses and what owners can name those businesses. The name itself can’t appeal to kids, the petitioner said. The signage is also restricted by the state and proprietors can’t have product displayed in the stores. Entrance is controlled by government-issued identification. There also has to be twenty-four-hour video monitoring in the building.
Committee member Carol Chappell said she doesn’t agree with marijuana stores being in the downtown district, but she is also uncomfortable with the mistake within the petition itself and that to make it work the Bar Harbor Town Council and Bar Harbor Planning Board would have to approve the changes by a super majority. That mistake allows the stores in a zone that doesn’t exist.
“I think it should be done correctly the first time,” she said. “We should not vote for things that we then have to go back and fix.”
Adult Marijuana Use Licensing Ordinance
Though some committee members worried about the town process for approving the marijuana license for retail stores as “murky,” the committee also passed a recommendation for the licensing ordinance’s approval, 9-6.
Town Manager Kevin Sutherland asked the petitioners, “Is there a possibility that you wouldn’t get this license because someone else could beat you to it?”
That possibility exists. Committee member Eben Salvatore said that once the two allowed stores are licensed, “there’s nothing that says the annual renewal will happen, and the current owner might get boxed out.”
Warrant Committee Chair Seth Libby said that if voters approve the petition Bar Harbor would issue two licenses that are up for grabs. There is a preferential right to a potential buyer, he said. With a limited number of stores available, those two licenses will be very lucrative, and there’s a potential that the licenses will never go public again. When there are only two, the licenses issues their own premium in the businesses that receive them.
If voters approve the first change in November, the ordinance would define retail marijuana stores and “place them in specific districts” according to the town manager’s packet notes. Those are the four districts that currently allow retail stores (Bar Harbor Gateway, Downtown Village I, Downtown Village II, and Downtown Village Transitional), but would also create a new zoning district whose “boundaries are not defined” according to the warrant article. That new undefined district would be called Shoreland Development III. This is the district that concerned Chappell.
APPENDIX A – Historic Properties in Design Review Overlay
In its speediest work of the night, the Bar Harbor Warrant Committee unanimously approved recommending the changes in Appendix A in the Land Use Ordinance. Within that appendix is a table of historic properties with historic or architectural merit that warrants their preservation, said Committee Member Carol Chappell.
These properties require a higher level of review by the Design Review Board if changes are made. Every year the DSR has to review the list. The changes include business name changes, years built.
“It’s kind of a rubber stamp of their work,” Chappell said.
For an earlier story about the marijuana petition, which shows and explains the zones where it would be allowed if it passes, click here.
The council meeting can also be viewed live here.
The council agenda and packet of information for the August 16 meeting. This includes the full text for potential warrant items at the November town meetings.
To check out the town zoning map, check here.