Lewiston City Council

Tuesday, Dec. 5

Marijuana ordinance

What happened: The City Council approved a series of edits to its marijuana ordinance Tuesday, including new language added this week aimed at ensuring that businesses with pending licenses can be grandfathered before the Dec. 13 deadline.

What it means: The changes are meant to update the ordinance and allow the city to work from a clean slate once the new state medical marijuana laws go into effect Dec. 13. City Administrator Ed Barrett said the language makes it clear that the city has not officially “opted-in” to allowing medical marijuana retail storefronts, testing and cultivation facilities and dispensaries.

Under the new laws, municipalities cannot restrict marijuana caregivers, but have authority to restrict medical marijuana retail stores, a business practice that was not anticipated under the initial state law but has since flourished. The model allows licensed caregivers to sell to patients from a retail location.

Lewiston had previously passed a moratorium on establishing medical marijuana storefronts, which will run until early January. Prior to the moratorium, the city had a number of storefronts in operation.

Six storefronts are in operation, and nine are pending. There are also 15 grow operations and two grow operations that also do retail. According to Barrett, the amended language will better stipulate that the nine pending applications will be grandfathered if they are operational by Dec. 13.

The council voted 7-0 to approve the changes.

What’s next: Once the new state law goes into effect, the City Council will have to decide whether to opt in to allow certain medical marijuana or recreational marijuana businesses, and if so, what type and where such businesses should be allowed.

(Another) weed ordinance

What happened: The council approved changes to a section of the property maintenance code that regulates tall grass, extending it to all but one zone in the city.

What it means: The ordinance stipulates that all exterior property in the specified zones “be maintained free from weed or plant growth in excess of 12 inches.”

In the ordinance, weeds are defined as “all grasses and annual plants and vegetation excluding trees, shrubs, and cultivated flowers and gardens.”

Previously the ordinance applied only in most downtown districts, but will now be extended to all zones except the rural agricultural district.

According to a memo from Barrett, a number of councilors and residents recently raised concerns about “the lack of adequate grounds maintenance in other zones. While this has primarily been related to vacant properties, it has also, in some instances, included occupied properties.

Bates STEM building 

What happened: The City Council approved a series of easements between the city and Bates College associated with the college’s new STEM building project.

What it means: The Bates College proposal for a three-story Science, Technology Engineering and Math building at 45 Campus Ave. was recently approved by the Planning Board. It was in front of the council Tuesday for easement language and associated street modifications that come with construction, which is slated to begin March or April 2019.

Bates College consultant Wright-Pierce submitted a request for two easements from the city to Bates College for utilities and two easements from Bates College to the city for a portion of a sidewalk to be on Bates College property.

The project was unanimously approved by the Planning Board on Oct. 31.

Bates officials said parking will be an issue in the area, especially during the construction period, which is supposed to last more than two years. A Bates College spokesman said the college has “a number of plans to address it,” and said when the project is complete there will be a net gain of nine parking spaces.

The council voted 6-0 to approve the easements.