WILTON — The Planning Board on Thursday, April 15, voted 5-1 to grant Shauna Tomlinson a business use permit to operate marijuana retail store Mountain Highs LLC at 222 US Route 2 West. Board member Bill McCrillis voted against the permit. This will be the town’s first recreational marijuana retail store.

Code Enforcement Officer Charlie Lavin said Tomlinson is still in the early stages and won’t have the building’s interior built out until August.

Prior to the meeting, the board conducted a site visit at Mountain Highs and during the application’s finding of facts, it was determined that the parking needs to be expanded. The board also requested the installation of additional exterior lighting.

The board unanimously voted to submit to the town’s attorney a zoning ordinance amendment proposal regarding outdoor, commercial development near town swimming areas and boat launches. The proposal would appear as a footnote to Table A2 Commercial Uses, outdoor commercial recreation.

“We will not have any commercial docks or development within 200 yards of the town’s swimming facility or boat launch to include marinas, or commercial docking systems that would cause congestion in those areas and thus be a safety issue,” board member Michael Parker proposed for the amendment.

According to the zoning ordinance, an amendment may be initiated by the Planning Board with a majority vote. The board must hold a public hearing on the proposed amendment at least 15 days prior to a town meeting during which residents vote on the amendment’s adoption.

The Planning Board is also waiting for the Select Board’s decision to hold a town meeting for a proposed, six-month moratorium to be placed on commercial development around Wilson Lake. The Select Board has deferred to legal counsel after the Planning Board moratorium proposal was challenged by James Butler who rents out lakefront property at 10 Rowell Street on Airbnb.

The Wilton Planning Board is proposing an amendment to the town’s zoning ordinance that would limit commercial development near public swimming and boat launch areas on Wilson Lake. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

Butler submitted a site plan review application for Wilson Lake Marina LLP to the Planning Board for review on March 18. The marina would allow for boat slip rentals as an alternative to using the town’s public boat launch nearby at Stinchcomb Lane. The board tabled reviewing the application and motioned for a moratorium.

Butler’s attorney, Kendall A. Ricker, wrote to the Select Board on April 5 stating that the Planning Board failed to provide adequate reasons to request a moratorium as outlined in Maine’s Revised Statute, Title 30-A, Section 4356 Moratoria. The letter urged the Select Board to deny the Planning Board’s request for a moratorium.

Both the Planning Board’s moratorium and zoning ordinance proposed amendment would affect Butler’s proposed marina business.

“In petitioning the Selectboard to call a town meeting to vote on the enactment of the Requested Moratorium the Planning Board does not elaborate as to what shortage or overburdening of public facilities may occur, or why the current Zoning Ordinance is inadequate to prevent serious public harm resulting from the Project’s development or other new developments,” Ricker’s letter read.

The Planning Board discussed their reasoning as to why they put forth a proposed moratorium and amendment, citing safety concerns around increased traffic near public boating and swimming areas. Board member Gwendolyn Doak noted the town’s boat launch as a primary access point for emergency services.

“I actually wanted to get an assessment from the wardens on emergency response on the lake considering what they would have to navigate around given that proposal [Wilson Lake Marina LLP] to get to emergencies and issues on the other end of the lake,” Doak said. “That’s the only entry point that isn’t shallow, that is the major artery to get people in and out, so that was one concern.”

Ricker’s letter stated that the Planning Board should have proceeded with reviewing Wilson Lake Marina LLP’s application and addressed concerns during the site plan review process.  The letter proposed that congestion in the public boat launch area would decrease since the marina would provide a place for people to keep their boats docked.

The board also discussed reviewing the zoning ordinance in the future to regulate short-term residential rentals.

I do want us to look at temporary rentals and things along those lines and make sure the rules are fair for everyone,” Doak said. “It concerns me that certain people are held to a certain standard for commercial enterprise along the lake, and certain things have been grandfathered in for understandable reasons, but I do think these are things we have purview over.”

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