City Council denies petition to allow Marijuana cultivation in highway districts

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City Council denies petition to allow Marijuana cultivation in highway districts

Taunton City Council Rejects Proposal for Combined Marijuana Retail and Cultivation Businesses in Highway Districts Despite Pleas and Industry Support.

Despite pleas by Kyra Fernandez to amend the zoning ordinance to allow combined marijuana retail and cultivation businesses in highway districts, the City Council ultimately rejected the petition.

Fernandez is constructing a recreational marijuana retail shop at 354 Winthrop St., and would like to add a marijuana cultivation growth facility on the same site. But, according to current city ordinances, marijuana cultivation facilities are prohibited in highway districts, only allowed in industrial districts.

Her petition to the City Council would have amended the zoning ordinance to allow combined marijuana retail and cultivation businesses in highway districts on Route 44, Route 140, and Route 138.

Councilor Barry Sanders asked the Council to request a legal review of the proposed ordinance amendment before a vote. The Council voted against the legal review, 4-4, instead moved to a roll call vote on the petition, where it failed 5-3. Councilors Kelly Dooner, Phillip Duarte, Scott Martin, Estele Borges, and John McCaul voted against the zoning change.

City Councilors weigh in on the ordinance proposal

Councilor McCaul said he could not support the proposed zoning amendment because it needs further evaluation of how a marijuana retail cultivation business in a highway district would impact the community.

“I’m not supporting this because it would set a precedent in the community,” he said. “We need to look at how it would affect the community. We need to study it closely.”

Councilor Duarte said he would not support a zoning change until city officials have procedures in place to deal with the odors from marijuana cultivation.

“We had issues with odor in the past that we have had to take into effect while going forward with other (cannabis) businesses,” he said.

Councilor Sanders said the city needs to make efforts to be business-friendly and acknowledged the cannabis industry is a legal industry.

“We want to be business-friendly, and sometimes that gets stretched beyond what folks are comfortable with,” he told the Taunton Daily Gazette on Wednesday. “I think it's fair to say we have a place in the cannabis industry.”

City Council President David Pottier said he supported the ordinance change because it would allow the Council to approve a special permit for a marijuana retail cultivation business in a highway district individually.

Input from residents

Church Green resident Bruce Thomas was concerned about potential odor issues that would come from the facilities, impacting neighborhoods and businesses near the facilities.

“That would be too much for the city,” he said. “We should not drive around the city with our children and have that odor everywhere."

Red Circle resident Herbert Day said amending the city ordinance to allow marijuana cultivation businesses in highway districts should be done because the cannabis industry is competitive.

“I’ve traveled to a lot of states, and things (cannabis competition) are more aggressive,” he said. Day said some states are making legislative changes to help cannabis businesses succeed.

“The times are changing, and we need to take on that change,” he said.

Proponent disappointed with vote

Fernandez said the Council’s refusal to approve the zoning amendment request is disappointing because it would have improved employment opportunities in the city.

“Unfortunately, they are not moving in a way to support social equity in the city,” she said after the Feb. 6 public hearing. “In the grand scheme of things, they (Council) are not allowing businesses to grow, which is a disadvantage to all of us.”

“At this point, I don’t need any cultivation,” Fernandez added. “When we open the marijuana retail shop, I’d like to protect my own personal interests. It would be good to have a cultivation facility. This is about supporting the industry. At the end of the day, I want to see businesses thrive.”

Fernandez said she hopes city officials will support her efforts to have a thriving marijuana retail store that remains under construction.

“In the end, if they don’t support my effort to get the business going in the city, we will move it elsewhere, and that would be unfortunate," she said. “Cannabis still appears to be looked at in a taboo manner. To not give the cannabis industry the same opportunity that is given to the liquor industry is unfair.”

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Region: Massachusetts

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