BIDDEFORD – The Planning Board has been asked to review a proposal to expand the cultivation and manufacture of marijuana in Biddeford’s industrial zones and make a recommendation to the City Council.

That was the decision at a recent City Council meeting, after lengthy debate about accommodating adult use marijuana in the city.

A move that would have asked the Planning Board to also consider a zoning amendment that would have included downtown locales was defeated.

Biddeford currently allows cultivation and manufacture of medical marijuana in Industrial Zones 1 and 2; the proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance would allow cultivation and manufacture of adult use marijuana in those zones as well. The proposal would also allow adult use cultivation and manufacture in Industrial zone 3, where currently only dispensaries are allowed, according to documents contained in City Council informational packets.

Some councilors expressed concern over the odors created by marijuana cultivation and manufacture, and Councilors Marc Lessard and John McCurry voted against sending the proposal to the Planning Board.

Lessard said he remembered the 1990s and similar conversations about odor with Maine Energy Recovery Company, which had operated a trash incinerator downtown.

“I’m not going back to the days when Biddeford was a “trash city” because of the smell,” said Lessard, in part.

McCurry said there have been odor complaints registered about four current marijuana locations.

“I’m serious about enforcement,” said McCurry. As well, he proposed the Planning Board also include the MSRD 3 (downtown) zone, pointing out there were empty spaces on either side of a planned new parking garage, and some empty mill buildings where industrial manufacturing used to take place, but that proposal was defeated.

Councilor Doris Ortiz said it is apparent some current facilities need to make upgrades to control odor.

“I don’t want Biddeford to lose any business or employees,” said Ortiz, who favored sending the proposal to the Planning Board.

Several people, most representing the marijuana industry, spoke to the issue.

Biddeford entrepreneur Paul Gelardi, CEO of Hightech Extracts, Hightech Labs, and a commercial real estate firm, favored the measure. The cannabis businesses itself is the “fastest growing industry in the history of humankind,” said Gelardi, adding he wants the city to opt in to adult use marijuana cultivation manufacturing.

Curaleaf senior mechanical engineer Steven Kinz addressed the City Council’s concerns about odor. In a written statement, Kinz wrote that recommendations include rebalancing the air flow and filtration system and installing new air handling units fitted with devices designed to help eliminate bacteria and airborne pathogens, and to reduce odor in spaces where unpackaged cultivation product exists, thus minimizing the impact of any barometrically relieved air.

“These recommendations align with industry best practices and have been proven successful, most notably on a project where Curaleaf took over an independent cultivation facility in Connecticut which had an odor issue next to luxury condos and mitigating these odors to the town and neighbors’ satisfaction,” Kinz wrote.

Curaleaf President Scott Reed said the company plans to invest $15 to $30 million in renovation and start-up costs at the 5 Drapeau St. facility. He said the company plans to generate 80 jobs that pay $16 to $22 an hour and include health care benefits, and pay salaries from $60,000 to $120,000 annually.

As part of their review, the Planning Board will also consider definition changes to the Biddeford Land Use Regulations, consider land use adjustments, like changing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to Caregiver Retail Stores and continuing to permit them in the I 3 zone, and add them as a conditional use in the I 1 and I 2 zones. Other changes would include marijuana testing facilities in the I 1, 2, and 3 zones. Performance standards would spell out that marijuana cultivation, testing and manufacturing be conducted indoors and setting standards for dealing with odor, disposal of marijuana and by product, and the like.

The order to send the matter to the Planning Board includes a request that the board conduct a public hearing and make recommendations to the City Council on the proposed amendments.

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