BIDDEFORD — The City Council on Tuesday extended the city’s moratorium on granting permits to new medical marijuana growing facilities to Dec. 31.

The council also tabled two proposals that would have established performance standards for such facilities, including where they can be located, until the end of the moratorium.

For months, the council has debated extending the moratorium on medical marijuana growing facilities in light of the upcoming Nov. 8 referendum ballot, which will ask Maine voters if they want to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

It was originally proposed to extend the moratorium to Nov. 9, the day following the general election, but several councilors felt that would not give the city adequate time to adjust to a potential “yes” vote by constituents.

“That’s the date after the election, and who knows how close a vote we’ll have,” said Councilor Rick Laverriere, who made a motion to amend the proposal to extend the moratorium to Dec. 31.

Councilor Michael Swanton voiced his disapproval of the amendment, saying he wouldn’t support extending a moratorium that he didn’t support in the first place.

Mayor Alan Casavant said an extension should be considered because the legislative language surrounding medical marijuana growing facilities is a “mess,” and he wants to give the city and state time to clean it up.

“There are a lot of problems with the whole thing,” Casavant said. “That might be able to be tweaked, but in the meantime, we have a referendum vote which is going to change everything. I think it’s appropriate we look at it once to re-tweak what we’ve tweaked.”

The council voted 5-3 to extend the moratorium, with councilors Swanton, Laura Seaver and Bob Mills dissenting. Councilor Robert Quattrone was excused.

The extension led councilors to table two proposals that would have established zoning regulations and performance standards for medical marijuana growing facilities.

The first proposal defined medical marijuana, and would have allowed medical marijuana growing facilities to be located in certain industrial zones within city limits, including the I-1 and I-2 zones. Those zones are located south of Cole Road to the Biddeford-Arundel line.

The proposal also would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to be located in I-3 zones, located on Route 111 north of the Shops at Biddeford Crossing to about Roberts Street, excluding the area around Southern Maine Health Care.

Swanton made a motion to accept the new zoning of the proposal, but not to accept the definitions as laid out before the council, stating that he doesn’t see a reason for adding the definitions

“because none of the public has asked for it.”

Councilor John McCurry disagreed.

“This has finally put some definitions down here so at least you know what you have as a definition,” McCurry said.

Seaver agreed with McCurry, saying the definitions were needed, especially since there are two medical marijuana growing facilities currently located within the I-1 and I-2 zones because of a clerical error in 2011.

In that year, the council voted to not allow growing facilities to be located in the I-1 and I-2 zones, but a clerical error in the law mistakenly granted permission to allow facilities to operate there.

The two facilities currently located in the zones have received permission from the city to operate within the zones, and their operations would be allowed under the council’s approval of the proposal.

“When the City Council voted, they specifically voted to leave those off the table, and the city in error added them in the code book, so by adding this, we’re actually reversing the vote of the previous City Council,” Seaver said.

Laverriere, who in the past has expressed his discontent with reversing a previous council’s decision, made a motion to table the council’s discussion until the end of the calendar year, when the moratorium runs out.

Councilors tied 4-4 in their decision. Casavant broke the tie by voting to table discussion of the proposal until the moratorium’s end.

The council also voted to table Proposal 2 of the recommended medical marijuana ordinance, which pertained to performance standards of medical marijuana facilities.

These standards would have stipulated that medical marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries be no closer than 250 linear feet from a church, school, public park or playground, and would have required facilities be made discreet for safety and security purposes.

City Manager Jim Bennett said because councilors tabled discussion on the moratorium until Dec. 31, they will not be allowed to discuss the issue until after that date, unless they vote again to amend its decision to begin discussion prior to the year’s end.

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

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