Newry approves marijuana moratorium ordinance

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At Tuesday’s annual Town Meeting, Newry voters passed a moratorium ordinance on retail recreational marijuana sales and approved the town taking over the North Newry Community Church.

About 40 people attended the meeting at the Bear River Grange Hall.

The moratorium ordinance was proposed because the state Legislature has yet to come up with regulations to go with the law approved by Maine voters in 2016, and a state moratorium on sales expired Feb. 1.

The short-term ordinance would last 180 days or until the state approves regulations, town officials said.

“Once the state says what the towns can do, we can develop regulations,” Town Administrator Amy Bernard told the Town Meeting voters.

The town recently received an inquiry from a business owner about possibly opening a distribution center, she said.

Newry Planning Board member Brooks Morton said he believed that board would not currently be able to act on any application for a retail business anyway. He said the ordinance was complicated and was not needed.

Bernard said, however, that not passing it could leave the town legally exposed.

It was approved easily.

Residents also voted easily to accept the North Newry Community Church and all its assets as a gift from the church’s Board of Directors, along with $1,000 for a new account to fund operations of the building.

Church board members approached selectmen last year, noting they could no longer afford to maintain the building.

Bernard said a building inspector will evaluate the church in the spring to see what work might be needed. It could potentially be rented out for small weddings, but some residents also spoke of the value of simply preserving it for its historical value.

Voters also approved the other money articles on the warrant.

The proposed municipal budget (not including school or county taxes) totals approximately $1.3 million, according to town officials.

Much of the $160,000 increase in the amount to be raised from taxes will come from increases in the Capital Improvement and Highways and Bridges accounts.

Voters approved the Capital Improvement Account recommended sum of $264,000, up from last year’s $167,200, largely due to paving projects planned. Among roads listed for paving are Timberline, Lone Pine, Mountain View, Mill Hill and Deer Run roads.

The Highways and Bridges Account was approved to increase to $188,500 from last year’s $158,660. Bernard said that hike is due largely to an increase in the town’s plowing costs and paying for road salt outside of the winter roads contract. She said salt could be purchased more cheaply by the town than by Newry’s road maintenance contractor, Cross Excavation.

Voters also approved third-party requests from nonprofit organizations for a total of $40,239, up slightly from last year, but not until there was some debate about $5,000 for the Mahoosuc Heart & Soul project.

The project assists communities in making decisions about their futures through a process that includes identifying what matters most to residents through interviews.

Morton made a motion to amend the third-party article to exclude the Heart & Soul amount, saying that area towns do a comprehensive plan to guide them and Newry did not need a “social engineering” program to determine what it needs.

Last year, Newry was the only area town to approve the $5,000 request that was also made to Woodstock, Greenwood and Bethel.

Steve Wight defended the program, saying it seeks out people who do not routinely participate in public processes in order to get a broader cross section of opinions, as well as information on how residents came to live in the area, why they stay, and what changes they would like to see.

The amendment was defeated 13-21, and the article was then approved with H&S included.

Also approved was the creation of three new Capital Reserve Accounts this year, all to receive initial funding from Undesignated Surplus. They are Town Buildings Reserve Fund ($50,000 this year); Revaluation Reserve Fund ($50,000); and Fire Department Equipment Reserve Fund ($100,000).

Bernard said the new format would replace the practice of taking money for those expenses directly from Undesignated Surplus and would make for a cleaner and clearer process. Future funding would be raised from taxes.

The meeting lasted about an hour and a half and was moderated by Vern Maxfield.

In an election held Monday, Selectman Jim Largess was re-elected to a three-year term. He received 65 votes to challenger Gary Drown’s 32.

NEWRY — Voters at Tuesday evening’s annual town meeting approved a six-month moratorium on on retail recreational marijuana sales and taking over the North Newry Community Church.

About 40 people attended the meeting at the Bear River Grange Hall.

The moratorium ordinance was proposed because the state Legislature has yet to come up with regulations to go with the law approved by Maine voters in 2016, and a state moratorium on sales expired Feb. 1.

“Once the state says what the towns can do, we can develop regulations,” Town Administrator Amy Bernard told voters.

The town recently received an inquiry from a business owner about possibly opening a distribution center, she said.

Planning Board member Brooks Morton said he believed the board would not be able to act on any application for a retail business now anyway. He said the ordinance was complicated and was not needed.

Bernard said, however, said not passing it could leave the town legally exposed.

Residents also voted to accept the North Newry Community Church and all its assets as a gift from the church’s directors, along with $1,000 for a new account to maintain the building.

Church directors approached selectmen last year, saying they could no longer afford to maintain the building.

Bernard said a building inspector will evaluate the church in the spring to see what work might be needed. It could potentially be rented for small weddings, but some residents also spoke of the value of simply preserving it for its historical value.

The proposed municipal budget, not including school or county taxes, totals about $1.3 million, according to town officials.

Much of the $160,000 increase in the amount to be raised from taxes will come from increases in the capital improvement and highways and bridges accounts.

Voters approved the capital improvement account recommended $264,000, up from last year’s $167,200, largely due to paving projects planned. Among roads listed for paving are Timberline, Lone Pine, Mountain View, Mill Hill and Deer Run roads.

The highways and bridges account was approved to increase to $188,500 from last year’s $158,660. Bernard said that hike is largely because of an increase in the plowing costs and paying for road salt outside of the winter roads contract. She said salt could be purchased more affordably by the town than by Newry’s road maintenance contractor, Cross Excavation.

Voters also approved third-party requests from nonprofit organizations for a total of $40,239, up slightly from last year, but not until there was some debate about $5,000 for the Mahoosuc Heart & Soul project.

The project assists communities in making decisions about their futures through a process that includes identifying what matters most to residents through interviews.

Morton made a motion to amend the third-party article to exclude the Heart & Soul amount, saying that area towns do a comprehensive plan to guide them and Newry did not need a “social engineering” program to determine what it needs.

Last year, Newry was the only area town to approve the $5,000 request that was also made to Woodstock, Greenwood and Bethel.

Steve Wight defended the program, saying it seeks out people who do not routinely participate in public processes in order to get a broader cross section of opinions, as well as information on how residents came to live in the area, why they stay, and what changes they would like to see.

The amendment was defeated 13-21, and the article was approved with Heart & Soul included.

Also approved was the creation of three new capital reserve accounts this year, all to receive initial funding from undesignated surplus. They are town buildings reserve fund, $50,000; revaluation reserve fund, $50,000; and Fire Department equipment reserve fund, $100,000.

Bernard said the new format would replace the practice of taking money for those expenses directly from undesignated surplus and would make for a cleaner and clearer process. Future funding would be raised from taxes.

The meeting was moderated by Vern Maxfield.

In Monday’s election, Selectman Jim Largess won another three-year term. He received 65 votes to challenger Gary Drown’s 32.

Newry town officials listen to Vern Maxfield moderate Tuesday’s annual town meeting. From left are Selectmen Jim Largess, Gary Wight and Virgil Conkright; Town Administrator Amy Bernard; and Code Enforcement Officer David Bonney.

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