Auburn council set to take up marijuana moratorium, city budget

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AUBURN — City officials will have a full plate Monday as the City Council is set to take up a controversial marijuana moratorium and final readings of next year’s budget and Capital Improvement Plan.

The CIP failed in its first reading June 4, and has been amended slightly ahead of the workshop and meeting that begins at 5:30 p.m. Monday. 

The proposed moratorium would ban marijuana social clubs and medical caregiver storefront operations for 180 days, but an effective date has not been set and could be decided Monday, following an executive session with the city’s attorney and a workshop discussion.

Any decision to make the moratorium retroactive is concerning to five Auburn businesses who already have storefront operations, which are not specifically prohibited in current city ordinances. The storefront model also adheres to the state medical marijuana laws. 

The council memo for Monday’s meeting says the moratorium could be made effective May 31, 2018, which would impact at least one caregiver storefront operation — Legal Peaces. 

The owner of the smoke shop, Vincent Gogan, recently moved his Auburn location to Turner Street from 120 Center St.

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Matt Dubois, a lawyer representing Gogan, claimed earlier this month that the city was purposely holding up the business’s certificate of occupancy for its new location because of the proposed moratorium.

He said previously that “because a theoretical ordinance isn’t a basis to withhold approval, all legal options are on the table, up to and including litigation.”

On Friday, City Manager Peter Crichton said the executive session and workshop planned for Monday will give councilors more time to come to agreement on the moratorium details, including the language of the moratorium itself. 

The proposed moratorium language defines a medical marijuana caregiver storefront as “a retail store, a retail business, or an establishment that resembles a retail storefront in terms of signage, hours of operation, and accessibility to patrons … where a licensed caregiver furnishes or sells marijuana or marijuana products to qualifying patients. …”

Police Chief Phil Crowell has said the Police Department has received complaints from residents regarding the location of the storefronts, and that there are no zoning rules for where the businesses are allowed. 

A marijuana work group was formed in February to look into the issue, and the moratorium language states the group needs more time to understand the implications of proposed state legislation dealing with recreational and medical marijuana. 

Concerning the effective date of May 31, Crichton said, “That’s what the police chief and I are looking at for when it could begin, but obviously this is up to the council.”   

“It’s going to be an important discussion,” he said. 

AUBURN BUDGET

During the meeting Monday, the City Council is expected to hold a second reading on next year’s $86.7 million budget, and $8.49 million in bonds for next year’s Capital Improvement Plan.

The CIP failed first reading June 4 by a vote of 4-3. The bonds need five affirmative votes to pass. 

During that meeting, councilors debated items for hours, eventually removing a $100,000 feasibility study for restoring swimming at the Lake Auburn outlet beach. 

Ahead of Monday’s vote, Crichton has removed another item from consideration: A new event floor at Norway Savings Bank Arena costing $125,000.

Crichton said Friday he and arena General Manager Jason Paquin have agreed to put the new event flooring off for another year. Paquin and city officials have argued that the new flooring will make the arena more competitive in securing more non-ice events at the arena. 

Also on the agenda Monday: A council resolve in support of an 800 Mhz replacement radio system for LA 9-1-1, which has also been controversial due to its high cost.

Many councilors have said the new digital system for emergency communications is simply too expensive for Auburn to afford, but supporters say the system will allow for better communication in emergency situations. 

The Lewiston City Council has already issued a resolve in support of the new system.

arice@sunjournal.com 

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