LEWISTON — City staff is closing in on a final draft of an ordinance regulating both medical and recreational marijuana.

While the City Council was originally set to review a final draft of the ordinance in June, officials said during a workshop Tuesday that the ordinance should be ready for a final review and vote this summer.

David Hediger, director of Planning and Code Enforcement, presented the basic scope of the ordinance Tuesday, which positions Lewiston as one of the next municipalities in the state to adopt local regulations for adult-use marijuana.

The ordinance includes required setbacks from schools and other public buildings, stipulates where certain types of marijuana businesses can be located, and creates a permit fee structure for businesses.

Hediger said Lewiston already has 32 “licensed establishments,” including medical grow operations and medical storefronts.

The city’s draft marijuana ordinance establishes a buffer of 750 feet between a marijuana business and the property line of schools or child care facilities and public parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities owned by the city.

It also establishes that there must be at least 500 feet between a marijuana store or dispensary and any two other marijuana stores and/or dispensaries in the same or adjoining zoning district.

Districts in which the city currently permits industrial and light industrial uses will allow marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, testing, nurseries and dispensaries.

According to the latest draft, marijuana retail stores will be allowed in districts that currently permit retail uses, except for Downtown Residential or Neighborhood Conservation “B.”

Hediger said the process of creating the ordinance has to be methodical to allow for participation and feedback from members of the marijuana business community. He said Tuesday that there have been a few points of concern, including the proposed rule that marijuana cultivation can only be done indoors, and the proposed permit fee structure.

The current license application fee in Lewiston is $550 per year, but according to Hediger’s memo to the council, “Given the unforeseen number of existing establishments and the potential for more, as well as the amount of time and resources involved by various departments in processing and inspecting establishments, there is a justifiable need to increase the fee. Some caregivers expressed concerns with the proposed increases. A quick review of communities suggests these are reasonable and consistent.”

The Auburn City Council passed its ordinance in late May after a yearlong process, which includes a similar fee structure.

The recommended fees are $1,500 for a marijuana store, $1,000 for a manufacturing facility and $500 for a testing facility.

For cultivation facilities, the city is proposing a sliding scale based on the square footage of “mature plant canopy.” The proposed fee is set at $1,000 for the smallest facilities, and increases to $5,000 a year for the largest facilities.

Hediger compared the proposed fees to the city’s current fee for a “Class A lounge,” or bar, which is $2,200 a year.

During the workshop, Councilor Michael Marcotte repeated a past request for establishing setbacks between marijuana businesses and residential zones. However, Hediger said doing so would strictly limit where such businesses would be allowed.

“Knowing the zoning in the city, it’s something that won’t work,” Councilor Jim Lysen said.

Hediger said there is still a demand for new businesses as the city works to draft an ordinance.

“Once a week I get a phone call with someone asking, ‘Can I open a store?'” he said.

Council postpones decision on housing committee

Also on Tuesday, the city tabled a vote on whether to establish a Housing Committee in Lewiston after officials disagreed over the makeup of the committee and wanted more time to hash out the details.

A Housing Committee has been proposed for some time in the city, and was recently boosted by the final report of the city’s Rental Registration committee earlier this year.

The committee’s role would be advising the City Council on the range of housing issues facing the community, and according to the council memo, “would be tasked with monitoring and assisting in the implementation of the comprehensive plan’s housing recommendations, monitoring and assisting in implementing and evaluating the city’s rental registration program, and advising the council and staff on residential development projects and housing programs funded through the Community Development Block Grant program.”

While councilors agree that the committee is needed, they were not in agreement Tuesday over what the committee’s makeup ought to be, particularly over how many members are allowed to be nonresidents.