AUGUSTA — Residents blasted a proposal to expand the city’s medical district to their neighborhood, a change that could allow a medical marijuana dispensary to locate at a north Augusta location.

However, Planning Board members warned, without a zone change, zoning in the area in question already allows uses much more intensive than a medical marijuana dispensary would likely be.

Meanwhile, the director of Northeast Patients Group, who wants to open a dispensary at a 10 Middle Road property which, for now, is part of the proposed expanded zone, said the facility would be safe and secure and provide suffering patients much-needed relief by giving them access to medical marijuana.

In June, city councilors approved medical marijuana dispensary zoning rules to limit the location of such facilities to the city’s medical district.

The district surrounds the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care and proposed site of a new MaineGeneral Medical Center hospital off Old Belgrade Road in north Augusta. The Planning Board is currently considering a proposal to expand the medical district to include a larger area of land along Old Belgrade Road.

The Planning Board ultimately voted Tuesday to table discussion on the proposed medical district expansion until their Aug. 24 meeting.

Much of the area is currently in the Planned Development zone, which, Deputy Development Director Matt Nazar said, allows more uses than would be allowed in the medical district.

“The important point we keep talking around is, right now, without rezoning it, it could have a much more intensive use than a medical marijuana dispensary,” said Delaine Nye, a member of the Planning Board. “I think we’re actually doing the neighborhood a favor.”

Gemma Dumont, 81, whose home is right across the street from the potential site of a dispensary, didn’t sound like someone who felt she was being done a favor.

“How would you like your children to live across from a place like that,” she said, angrily. “Everybody is going to come check it out and see what they can do to maybe raid the place. Our yards are going to be infested with all kinds of riffraff. Why don’t they look into somewhere where there’s no one living there, no children playing. The hospital is coming there. That’s fine. But not a marijuana dispensary. Over my dead body.”

Rebecca DeKeuster, of Augusta, executive director of Northeast Patients Group, said security at the facility would be beyond what is required by the state, and may include security personnel on the site 24 hours a day. She said she spoke, Monday, with a 70-year-old man dying of cancer who had no place to get medical marijuana.

“The people coming here will be the same people going to the cancer center, to the hospital,” she said. “I want to assure the board, and the community, the clientele is in need and is not the type that is going to devalue the neighborhood. These folks are not out to create trouble.”

She said her nonprofit organization first hoped to be at the cancer center itself, but found space there to be too expensive.

Planners asked Nazar to prepare two proposals for them to consider at their next meeting — one with the zone expansion as currently proposed, and another excluding the 10 Middle Road lot from the zone change.

In Waterville — the other city in the running for a dispensary in the state’s Kennebec-Somerset region — lawmakers last week unanimously passed a six-month moratorium on siting such a facility.

 

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

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