BATH — Bath city councilors are expected to vote Wednesday for the final time on whether to allow retail recreational marijuana facilities.

Should the ordinance be approved, sales will be allowed in the retail areas on Congress Avenue eastward toward Washington Street, encompassing a large section of the city’s downtown.

In August, Bath city councilors gave preliminary approval to the ordinance and officials were expected to take a final vote on the matter in September, but later tabled the vote to allow for more time for research.

According to Bath’s proposed retail rules, recreational and medical marijuana stores will be required to be licensed by the state and city, and install security measures, including 24-hour surveillance. In addition, passers-by shouldn’t be able to smell marijuana from outside the building.

The rules also set a 500-foot buffer around schools, licensed childcare facilities, substance abuse rehabilitation or treatment centers and halfway houses. No two retail stores can open within 300 feet of each other.

Despite the buffer areas, Julie Ambrosino, city councilor at-large, said she doesn’t like the idea of allowing retail spaces for recreational marijuana downtown.

“People want to see more of the stuff they want downtown, they want something everyone can make use of,” Ambrosino said. “This isn’t going away, and we’re trying to appease the voters who want it, but we want to keep the town as safe as possible.”

Ambrosino mentioned neighboring Woolwich, which has two medical marijuana dispensaries on Route 1, but said the placement of the dispensaries complements the town’s layout.

“Woolwich has a few dispensaries, but Woolwich is more spread-out and (the dispensaries) aren’t in walkable areas,” Ambrosino said. “In Bath, we’re so on top of one another and it’s a dense, populated area.”

In September, City Councilor Aaron Park proposed giving public parks a 500-foot buffer from recreational marijuana retail stores.

The action comes nearly three years after the passage of a statewide referendum in November 2016 to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana as an agricultural product. Municipalities must decide whether to authorize retail sales.

Bath already has one medical marijuana dispensary downtown, located at 67 Centre St. The dispensary opened its Bath location in 2016.

While recreational marijuana storefronts could be allowed downtown, retail sales won’t be allowed in a zone bordering the area around Bath Iron Works. Last month, Planning Board Director Ben Averill said representatives from the shipyard expressed concern about potentially having recreational marijuana stores near BIW facilities.

“Retail marijuana sales in the neighborhoods near the shipyard work against our efforts to make sure our nearly 6,000 employees are focused on their job and doing it safely,” BIW spokesman David Hench said. “While it may be a personal choice for some, in a manufacturing environment that choice places others at risk and is counter to BIW’s substance abuse policy.”

The council is expected to hold a second and final vote on the new marijuana rules Wednesday, but Council Chairwoman Mari  Eosco said she’s prepared to postpone the vote until November’s meeting if counselors need more time for clarification and research.

“If we need to postpone this vote, so be it. We’re not in a rush,” Eosco said. “We’d all like this to be done, but we want to do it right.”

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