LEWISTON — The City Council approved several amendments Tuesday that will place new restrictions on where new marijuana businesses can be located.

The new buffers, which will also be measured in a more streamlined manner, impact the required distance between marijuana businesses and places like schools and childcare facilities, as well as parks and recreational areas.

After a review of the ordinance, city staff said the current system for measuring the buffers is problematic, but the ordinance review also coincided with concerns from officials over the number of marijuana businesses in the city. That led to proposed changes to the buffers that staff said would likely limit new marijuana businesses.

The council tabled a vote earlier this month in order to further define the recommended changes.

The so-called “performance standards” will add a 1,000-foot buffer between marijuana businesses and schools, a 500-foot buffer from parks and a 100-foot buffer from any residential property. The council also signed off on a 500-foot buffer between two marijuana businesses.

In all, the amendments mark a shift in city policy to a more restrictive approach to new marijuana businesses. Several councilors said they’ve heard concerns from constituents over the increased number of marijuana stores or other uses.


“I don’t want to be looked upon as the pot capital of Maine,” said Councilor Lee Clement.

A recent staff memo said the city has 29 active or pending license applications for grow operations, 27 active or pending retail licenses, and six active or pending applications for manufacturing licenses. As of November, Lewiston was tied with South Portland for the fourth-most adult-use marijuana business licenses in the state.

Due to the changes, several existing businesses will now be considered non-conforming due to the expanded buffers. David Hediger, director of planning and code enforcement, said license applications already in the pipeline will be considered grandfathered.

Most council votes Tuesday were 5-1, with Councilor Scott Harriman opposed. Harriman has repeatedly said he doesn’t see the logic in the expanded buffers.

He said the 500-foot buffer from parks, which was considered a compromise with the rest of the council, would essentially eliminate the downtown from allowing new marijuana businesses.

Hediger told the council that due to how narrow some commercial districts are, like on Sabattus Street, the residential buffer will cut into large portions of available uses. Some buildings are cut in half by the buffer. Harriman said some marijuana businesses that are just setting up shop will now be non-conforming.


“It seems kind of silly that for a business that’s not even open yet we’re making them non-conforming,” he said.

Hediger said it’s common for some businesses to be non-conforming in its zone, and that it wouldn’t impact the use unless it’s vacant for 24 months.

For city staff, the change will eliminate some headaches from the previous ordinance. Currently, the ordinance language states the buffer is measured along an “ordinary course of travel” between the main entrance of a business and the main entrance of a home in a residential district, which staff said has been problematic. The change would measure the buffer “as the crow flies,” or from the property line of the residence to any part of the marijuana business.

Also on Tuesday, the council postponed indefinitely a proposal to amend the zoning at 1046 Main St. to allow for marijuana businesses. The vote effectively kills the project.

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