Norway selectmen want legal opinion on pot moratorium

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NORWAY — The Board of Selectmen voted 5-0 Thursday to recommend to the Planning Board that it not approve an application for a medical marijuana growing facility on Pikes Hill Road until the town attorney addresses the legality of a moratorium on them.

At the start of the meeting, a resident expressed concern at the number of medical marijuana growing facilities proposed in town.

There have been three in the past five months.

In May, the Planning Board voted unanimously to authorize one for Matt New of Auburn at 12 King St.

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Planners are considering a similar proposal by two Massachusetts men for 1 East St.

In August, Rob Laverdiere of Lewiston submitted a proposal to turn the former brick production facility of the Advertiser Democrat newspaper at 1 Pikes Hill Road into a medical marijuana growing facility. He said he would be the primary caregiver and have up to five patients with a maximum of six plants per patient.

The Planning Board accepted Laverdiere’s site plan review application Aug. 24 and scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 14.

At Thursday’s meeting, Selectman Bruce Cook asked Town Manager Dennis Lajoie whether the town could pass a moratorium on such facilities until the “state can give us guidance, in writing, how they plan to make changes to medical marijuana laws.”

Selectman Russell Newcomb said he didn’t think the board could do that without a public hearing, and was unsure whether a moratorium was legal.

Lajoie said he didn’t know whether it was legal for the town to pass such a moratorium, “especially when the town does not have a zoning ordinance” that specifies where medical marijuana growing facilities are allowed.

One resident suggested selectmen place an administrative hold on Laverdiere’s application until the town attorney can answer the board’s questions.

Lajoie disagreed.

“You talk about doing a hold on a project that’s three-fourths of the way through … it doesn’t seem right,” he said. “You would think they would challenge that if we put a hold on it.”

Newcomb suggested selectmen “make a recommendation to the Planning Board that, during their public hearing on Sept. 14, they not approve the application for the 1 Pikes Hill Road grow facility until the town attorney can speak to the legality of a grow facility moratorium.”

“It’s not a part of the Board of Selectmen’s jurisdiction to tell the Planning Board that they can’t approve it, but I don’t see the harm in suggesting that they don’t do it,” Newcomb said.

mdaigle@sunmediagroup.net

Norway Selectmen Mike Twitchell, left, and Thomas Curtis listen to Town Manager Dennis Lajoie (not shown) talk about medical marijuana growing facilities at Thursday night’s board meeting at the Town Office.

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