Two warrant articles proposed to change marijuana ordinances

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FARMINGTON — During the Dec. 28 board meeting, the select board reviewed two proposed warrant articles to make changes to the marijuana licensing ordinances. If approved, the warrant articles would be voted on by the town of Farmington during the annual town meeting.

The first proposed warrant article was presented by Michael MacNeil, a member of the planning board, who also operates a marijuana business. His proposed changes to the ordinance would increase the number of business licenses available in the town. Currently there are seven retail licenses, seven cultivation licenses, five manufacturing licenses, and two testing licenses.

The proposed changes would increase the number of licenses to twelve retail licenses, nine cultivation licenses, eight manufacturing licenses, and maintain two testing licenses.

MacNeil stated that the licensed are all claimed, but the businesses are not open. There is a wait list of interested parties who would like to open businesses, but there are no available licenses. He expressed concern that the licenses may be stuck in limbo, preventing other businesses from opening.

Code Enforcement Officer Steve Kaiser said that there are roughly ten parties that have expressed interest. He added that of the licenses available in the town, only one did not have a location determined. The process of obtaining licensing from the state is lengthy and complex, and Kaiser indicated that there are efforts being made to speed up the process and allow the businesses to open in the next year.

The board had previously put the marijuana ordinances on their work list for the winter months. One adjustment that multiple people were interested in seeing was a ‘use it or lose it’ provision to avoid license acquisition to prohibit competition.

The board agreed to take the proposed warrant article changes into consideration during that work.

The second proposed warrant article was presented by Chad Crandall, owner of Blue Sky Labs; Crandall operates a manufacturing facility on the Wilton Road and purchased the former Family Dollar building to expand their campus.

The current ordinance requires a minimum of 1,000 feet between buildings housing marijuana businesses. Crandall’s proposed change would allow an exception for properties owned by the same person or entity, such that no setbacks would be required between the buildings.

The ordinance would still require individual licenses for each location.

The board voted unanimously to present the warrant article to the town meeting for the voters to decide.

In addition, the board reviewed a business management proposal from the firm Berry, Talbot, and Royer. Recently the town’s treasurer accepted a position with another municipality. While the position was advertised, the town only received one application for an individual who was not qualified. Town Manager Christian Waller met with one of the partners for the firm and felt comfortable with their services offered; he recommended that the board enter into a contractual agreement with the firm to provide accounting and business management services for the town.

The contract would run for three years, although there is a termination clause to allow either party to withdraw at any point. The contract would cost $90,000 per year. The town could expect to pay that much for a treasurer when the cost of salary, benefits, and other compensation were added up.

Waller said that there would be benefits from having the firm go through the policies and procedures for handling the town’s funds, to ensure they are efficient and secure. The firm would use the town’s current financial programing and would make sure that employees had ready access to their information through the Bangor Savings timekeeping and payroll program that the board recently approved.

The board, four to one, to authorize the town manager to move forward with entering into an agreement. The contract will be drawn up by the firm, the town manager, and the town’s attorney as appropriate. The board also agreed to meet with a representative from the firm as quickly as a meeting can be arranged.

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