MRCC

Grow, Gift, Repair

#MUNICIPAL #GUIDANCE: Billerica

Selectmen supported limiting the area marijuana businesses in the town — whether cultivation or retail stores — to an industrial area off Route 3. The area includes Republic, Esquire and Sterling roads and is the same as the town’s existing medical marijuana overlay zone.

“We wanted to keep this use away from the school districts and we wanted to keep this use off of Boston Road,” said Town Manager John Curran, as he introduced the proposed zone to the Board of Selectmen. “It’s not really appropriate for Boston Road.”

The suggestion, like all else discussed at the Monday night working session, still needs to be reviewed and voted on by selectmen and come before town meeting before becoming law.

The issue’s sticking point was the size of a buffer zone because TC’s Training Center, an athletic center that draws minors, opened in the area since the medical marijuana zone was created.

For medical marijuana, the bylaw called for an 1,000 foot buffer around the business, but such a zone would reduce the size of the distict by close to a third.

Selectman Michael Rosa started the conversation by asking to keep this buffer, but allowing businesses to apply for a special waiver giving them the ability to locate as close as 250 feet from this facility.

But others, including Selectman Andrew Deslaurier, argued to reduce the buffer to 500 feet.

“This is where we zoned it,” he said. “This is where we’re incentivizing businesses to locate there.”

The current proposal sets a 500-foot buffer with opportunity to request a waiver to locate as close as 250 feet away.

Selectman George Simolaris questioned whether this would allow enough space for businesses to locate, but said he supported the zone and 500-foot buffer.

Rosa said businesses may also be able to locate outside this zone, but the process would be difficult and require a two-thirds approval at Town Meeting. He suggested trying to create a way to keep this from happening in residential areas, though some were unsure it was possible to formerly restrict this and it was not added to the proposed regulations.