RUMFORD — Townspeople voted overwhelmingly Monday night to approve an ordinance establishing a 180-day moratorium on retail marijuana establishments and retail marijuana social clubs.

Most of the 60 people in attendance held up their orange cards in support of the ordinance during the special town meeting in the Rumford Falls Auditorium.

On Nov. 8, Maine voters narrowly approved legalizing recreational use of marijuana, allowing municipalities to regulate the location and operation of retail marijuana establishments and retail marijuana social clubs and to adopt and enforce regulations for such uses.

The moratorium ordinance gives the town time to draft regulations governing such establishments and clubs, because the town Zoning Ordinance has no provisions or standards for them.

Two other articles were voted on.

Approved was a tax-increment financing district at the former Puiia Lumber property at 50 Prospect Ave., where a $7.5 million Best Western Hotel is expected to be built. The district includes downtown streets.

An article to accept the Route 108 bypass as a town way was turned down, 24-25.

Regarding the TIF, the district would designate 13 lots on or near Spruce Street, Prospect Avenue and Route 2 as the Pennacook Falls Municipal Development.

According to town attorney Jennifer Kreckel, the TIF program encourages development of economically struggling areas by allowing towns to provide some financial assistance to would-be developers.

A property may be taxed at $2,000 in its current condition. Under a TIF, the town would continue to receive the $2,000 for the property, but if the property’s value increases because of the investment and improvement to the property, the additional taxes can be refunded to the owner, who is making substantial investments in the property.

If the investments improve the value of the property so that the tax would increase from $2,000 to $7,000, the town could pay the owner up to $5,000 per year for a maximum of 10 years. After the TIF ends, the town would receive $7,000 in taxes for the property, the full amount due.

Generally speaking, the owner would have to put a considerable amount of investment into the property in order to raise the value.

“This is an incentive to encourage people to bring investment to our beautiful but very needy and distressed buildings before they enter a state of such disrepair that no one will want to undertake the monumental costs of repairing and improving these structures in need,” Kreckel wrote in an email.

Planning Board member Kevin Saisi said he asked a Realtor about the impact of having a hotel in the downtown and was told that inquiries about available space in the downtown have already increased.

Saisi added that the town has only about 30 beds available.

“We don’t have the ability to house people overnight from out of the area,” he said. “We need this (hotel) if we’re going to move forward. It’s important for us to invest in our future.”

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