BETHEL  — At Thursday’s April 11 meeting selectmen approved ordering ballots for four additional marijuana ordinances; medical dispensary, medical manufacturing, medical testing and medical cultivation.

The vote will take place on June 11, a day before Bethel’s town meeting.

The proposal passed 3-2, with Andy Whitney and Lori Swain opposed.

There are nine ordinances total, with the other five focused on adult-use marijuana. The selectmen have seen the five ordinances regarding adult-use, but not the four focused on medical marijuana.

Some selectmen were concerned with the timing.

“I can’t see myself voting to put something on that I have absolutely no idea what it actually says,” Andy said. “We don’t have to rush, in my mind.”

“I feel that this is being pushed along too fast, we don’t even have anything in front of us,” Swain said.

“The ordinances that are missing are basically cut and paste, they are not going to be much different than what you’re seeing,” resident Dwayne Bennett said.

Bennett is a member of the Ordinance Review Committee.

Each of the four ordinances contains setbacks. The Marijuana Committee and Ordinance Review Committee agreed to extend the setbacks to 1,000 feet from schools, daycare centers and recreation facilities/parks. The state standard is 500 feet. The setbacks apply to all nine ordinances.

“That effectively eliminates any chance of any of these activities occurring within Bethel Village,” Planning Assistant Sarah Tucker said.

“As far as I’m concerned I’m ready to get done what legal counsel has said we need to get done,” Selectman Don Bennett said.

Tucker also said the Ordinance Review Committee drafted stricter odor standards, which would require the use of some type of system to mitigate any smell.

A public hearing on the marijuana ordinances is scheduled for Wednesday, May 22.

Citizen forum

During the public comments section, resident Rick Whitney expressed his concern on how ordinances are being handled by the town. His focus was on the marijuana and plastic bag ordinances.

He said that on April 2, a day after the board’s meeting, he went to the town office to see a completed version of the two ordinances, but none were available.

The selectmen voted in favor of putting the ordinances on the town warrant at their April 1 meeting.

“In essence you voted to approve those items to be put on the warrant without ever having read the final versions of them,” Rick said. “I find that very disturbing.”

At February’s selectmen’s meeting, Rick proposed an ordinance that would ban bicycle riding on streets that do not have a bike lane. He said his ordinance was intended to restrict certain areas of Bethel from bikes. Selectmen declined to send the ordinance to the Ordinance Review Committee for consideration.

“Before that even saw the light of day you had it go to an attorney and you came to the meeting and made sure that you talked in front of the crowd about how bad that ordinance was according to the attorney,” he said of his proposal. “The bag ordinance has not been to an attorney at the time it’s been voted to put on the town warrant.”

Rick said he thinks the items are being rushed by the board.

“This is not the way to run a town,” he said.

Southam said the board had a deadline of April 12 to add items to the town warrant for June’s annual town meeting.

Rick said it could be pushed back to next year’s meeting.

“These ordinances have had a lot of work by a lot of people. It seems like they will have them done and ready to go on the ballot for June,” Selectman Pete Southam said.

Southam said he expects the ordinances to be completed in time for the public hearings in May. If the ordinances are not completed in time, Southam said they can be removed from the town warrant. If the ordinances do not go on the town warrant, they can appear on next year’s warrant or a special town meeting could be scheduled.

Selectmen have yet to see the final versions of the ordinances, but the ordinances have been returned from the attorney and are in “final form,”  according to Tucker.

“If we get into a situation where the lawyer says these ordinances are not ready we’ll pull them from the ballot,” Southam said. “If they don’t go on now, they can’t go on for a year.”

The vote could have gone to a special town meeting if the ordinances had not been ready.

Rick wondered why the bike ordinance he proposed was not given the same opportunity.

“We knew ahead of time it was not legal,” Southam said.” “As far as I know there is no bike ban anywhere in Maine that is legal.

“As far as we know, currently, none of the other ordinances have specific pieces that are illegal in it as they stand,” he added.

Southam said the town used ordinances that were already reviewed by lawyers and used in other places.

“I thought that I would be given the opportunity to revise it to meet certain criteria which I was not allowed to do,” he said.

Another question Rick had was why his ordinance was immediately sent to an attorney, while the other two (plastic bag and marijuana) were not.

Southam said his first instinct was to ask the attorney if the ban would be legal. He also said Rick can revise his ordinances if he wishes to.

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