Existing medical marijuana businesses like CannaRx on Roosevelt Trail in Windham will be grandfathered in to the land use ordinances, but may face restrictions if they decide to expand. Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

WINDHAM — The Windham Planning Board approved 3-1 Monday the latest version of the marijuana land use ordinance, which includes buffers from schools and daycare centers, but the measure stalled once again when it reached the Town Council.

Planning Board Chairman Keith Elder cast the vote against the ordinance.

The council, meeting Tuesday, delayed a public hearing on the matter until May 26.

The setbacks were the most significant amendments, according to Planning Director Amanda Lessard.  The council voted in March to extend the buffer between all marijuana businesses – both medical and recreational – and schools from 500 feet to 1,000; reduce the door-to-door buffer zones from day cares from 500 feet to 250; and eliminate setbacks from correctional facilities.

The only buffers the state sets as a guideline are a 500-foot setback from schools for medical marijuana facilities and 1,000 feet from schools for adult-use, or recreational marijuana, facilities. Setbacks from day cares and correctional facilities are not required by the state, Lessard said.

The revisions remove marijuana cultivation facilities — essentially large greenhouses where cannabis products are grown — from the three commercial zones in Windham. Cultivation facilities, or “grows,” will only be permitted in the Industrial District and the Enterprise Development District, which are on the outskirts of the town and away from the main commercial area in North Windham. Grows are the only marijuana facilities prohibited from any commercial zones.

In a letter to the Planning Board, Windham Economic Development Council board member Larry Eliason wrote that he “vehemently opposed” removing cultivation land use from certain commercial zones.

“One of the biggest issues I have is Windham wants to apply very stringent rules to cannabis operations and to buildings either owned or leased by cannabis but not to other business categories that sell, serve, beer, wine, liquor and/or prescribe drugs including opioids. Would we be having this zoning conversation if we had nine beer breweries in Windham with ten to twelve very large warehouses for distribution of those products?”

He said marijuana cultivation facilities will “offer a long-term commercial tax base” to the town.

WEDC Director Tom Bartell said in a phone call with the Lakes Region Weekly on Wednesday that any marijuana facility pays the same property taxes as any other business, but that most of the other taxes on it are paid to the state. However, he said, the job growth should not be downplayed.

“All of that breeds economic activity and we certainty welcome that,” Bartell said.

The cultivation facilities are restricted to 7,000 square feet in the industrial district and 20,000 square feet in the economic development district. Ethan Benjamin Maszczenski, a Windham resident and owner of the Healthy Cannabis Company in Falmouth, said that limits existing facilities’ ability to compete with a potential influx of other marijuana businesses.

“Basically, any of us small town caregivers, we’re not going to be able to get loans to buy property in commercial districts,” Maszczenski said on Monday night. “We’re not going to be able to do cultivation facilities in commercial districts, but many of us already own properties in farming districts … Maybe (ease restrictions) to give some of us smaller guys an opportunity to compete with the bigger businesses.”

The nine existing marijuana businesses in town will be grandfathered in under the land use ordinance.

At Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting, councilors voted to delay a public hearing on the land use and licensing ordinances until May 26 and voted to extend the existing moratorium on marijuana cultivation facilities to the same date. This is the fourth time the council postponed a vote. There was some discussion about waiting until June, when the council could conduct an in-person public hearing.

The motions to postpone the hearings and extend the moratorium passed 6-1, with Councilor Clayton Haskell voting no.

Chairman Jarrod Maxfield said he believed it was important to get the public hearing on the docket as soon as possible, with the majority of councilors agreeing.

“The longer we wait, the more opportunity we give for out-of-state entities and persons to come in and not only compete with locals, but also create a much larger project for the council, the committees or the staff … I would like to just see us move it forward,” Maxfield said.

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