SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland City Council has given preliminary approval for new restrictions on marijuana licenses.

According to Planning and Development Director Milan Nevajda, changes focus on where applicants will be allowed to start new marijuana-related businesses, with restrictions on new licenses in some parts of the city and new rules defining the mandated distance from certain locations such as churches and schools.

The council has been discussing changes to the 2017 ordinance governing marijuana businesses since September. Initially, they discussed a cap on licenses – similar to those established this year in communities such as Portland – although the amended ordinance doesn’t include a cap.

This week, councilors agreed to include a grandfather clause covering businesses in the process of getting licensed. According to the planning office, 16 marijuana-related businesses have already received local approval, and there are nine different businesses that are at the beginning of the approval process.

The council has also agreed that pot businesses must be 1,000 feet away from so-called sensitive use locations. Sensitive use locations include schools, child care facilities, community centers, large public outdoor recreational spaces and places of worship. A new proposal calls for adding “minor-serving businesses” — such as children’s and infants’ clothing stores, libraries and arcades — and mental or social health services to the sensitive use definition.

Notable among the changes is a ban on new licenses in 12 different zoning districts, including the district where the Maine Mall is located and a district located in the south-central part of the city dedicated to industrial businesses.

That district, known officially as the INR district, was a bone of contention for Councilor Kate Bruzgo. The district, she noted, already contains a number of heavy industry businesses. Banning marijuana-related businesses won’t stop heavy traffic from going in and out, she said.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense for businesses to be excluded from operating there,” she said.

Bruzgo was the only councilor to vote against passing the changes through first reading on Dec. 1, based largely on the INR district. Councilor Susan Henderson said she believed the work the city is doing to update its comprehensive plan may Bruzgo’s concerns.

The amended ordinance is available at; officials said the council will likely take a final vote on the ordinance Tuesday, Dec. 22.

Henderson said she hoped the new ordinance will contain much-needed updates without interfering with existing businesses.

“I think it’s fairly reasonable,” Henderson said.

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