Voters gather at the Carrabassett Valley Outdoor Center on Wednesday night for the annual town meeting. They approved construction of a new fire station at Sugarloaf ski area and retail adult use cannabis-based businesses in the village district, if licensed by selectmen. Valerie Tucker photo

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Voters at the annual town meeting Wednesday approved licensed retail adult-use marijuana businesses in the village district but not cultivation, manufacturing or testing operations in the light industrial zone.

They also approved construction of a $1.5 million fire station off Sugarloaf Access Road.

The marijuana articles were the result of several years of research, meetings and public input by state and local officials.

In 2016, Maine voters approved the Marijuana Legalization Act, allowing municipalities to decide whether to allow adult-use cannabis-based businesses to operate within their limits. However, lawmakers are still in the process of licensing and regulating the cultivation, manufacture, testing and retail sales for adult-use marijuana and products.

“I’m a little concerned about the public safety impact,” the Rev. Pamela Morse said. “I don’t know that we really need this.”

She said the town has refused some types of businesses before, and residents in many Maine towns have voted against having any marijuana businesses.

Others expressed similar concerns, noting the town’s reputation for healthy outdoor lifestyles and low crime rates.

Despite those concerns, residents voted 45-37 to approve the required licensing and zoning changes in the village district to accommodate retail adult-use marijuana businesses.

Selectmen  will oversee a stringent vetting process of applicants and will approve a maximum of two licenses through a lottery system. Carrabassett Valley residents will receive priority consideration.

For medical use marijuana, the state controls the licensing and regulations and has testing standards. However, similar standards have not been finalized for the adult-use products, so the municipal applications wouldn’t be processed until the Legislature develops its final regulations.

“As we understand it, the state won’t be giving out conditional licenses until June,” Town Manager David Cota said. “Nothing will happen until then.”

The article to allow up to two types of nonretail businesses, including cannabis cultivation, manufacturing or testing, in the light industrial zone was rejected by a vote of 22-57.

That zone includes self-storage units, an interior design company and similar low-impact small businesses.

Several people shared concerns about the potential for negative consequences on residents and small enterprises there because it has no extra security requirements.

“My wife and I own one of those businesses,” resident Courtney Knapp said. “There are kids and families located in that district.”

Regarding the fire station, voters approved borrowing just over $1.3 million to add to $240,000 raised and appropriated at the past four town meetings.

The station would be near the sand and salt facility on 2.1 acres donated by the Sugarloaf ski area, which is also paying for engineering and permitting.

The 6,384-square-foot station would have space for police and communication departments in the future.

Town fire equipment has been housed in two Sugarloaf maintenance garage bays since the mid-1980s.

The 2020-21 municipal budget of $2.6 million is $31,799 less than last year, Cota said, but municipal officials expect an increase in the school and Franklin County assessments.

Moderator Robert Briggs led voters through the 65 articles.

In elections March 3, Selectman Jay Reynolds, Sanitary District Trustees Robert Briggs and Greg Roux, and School Board Directors Deirdre Frey and Merideth Swallow were elected.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.