The Biddeford City Council has voted against changing zoning to allow marijuana cultivation at the former Journal Tribune building at 457 Alfred St. Journal Tribune File Photo

BIDDEFORD — A proposal for a zoning change to allow marijuana cultivation at the former Journal Tribune building at 457 Alfred St. in Biddeford was defeated by the City Council at a recent meeting.

The property is owned by Five Star Holdings. Patrick Donahue told the Biddeford Planning Board in March that he would like the council to change the zoning from Industrial 3 to Industrial 1. He said lots involved are adjacent to the I-1 zone, and laid out a plan for odor control — a subject that has been a concern of the Planning Board and also the City Council, as they hear from residents about odor issues in some Biddeford locations where cannabis is cultivated.

The proposed change would have involved zoning for 1 Enterprise Drive, and parts of 451 and 457 Alfred St. Marijuana cultivation is not allowed in the I-3 zone, where the property is located, but is allowed in I-1.

The Planning Board voted 3-1 to recommend the change to the City Council. Had the matter been approved at the council level, the applicant would have had to return to the Planning Board for a conditional use permit.

But the majority of councilors balked at the proposed change, for varying reasons, and after some discussion, all councilors with the exception of Stephen St. Cyr and Normal Belanger voted against it.

Council President John McCurry pointed out that a recent prior attempt to change the zoning in the area was defeated, as the council talked about the vision for that area of the city.

“My question is what is the vision we see now,” asked McCurry. “At one point we talked about gateways for entrances to the city. Tell me, what we have changed since the last time we talked about this?”

He didn’t get an answer.

“I think we should wait til we know what we want to do in that zone,” McCurry said.

Councilor Norman Belanger said the last time a zoning change was proposed for that area, the entire zone would have changed.

“This facility is pretty much encircled by the I-1 zone,” said Belanger. “There’s a certain wave to be caught if you’re growing marijuana … this isn’t the issue that came up before.”

Councilor Any Clearwater said she was a lot less concerned about the marijuana proposal than other uses that could be done in an I-1 zone.

“I want these folks to be able to have a grow operation, but I am concerned about making this the most heavy duty industrial zone,” sad Clearwater.

Councilor Marc Lessard said his examination of the zoning map shows, technically, the property doesn’t abut the I-1 zone. “It is across the street, kitty-corner to I-1, it is not a bordering property, so the idea of extending I-1 is a fallacy,” said Lessard.

“What I find somewhat troubling is the lack of a plan for the gateway,” said Mayor Alan Casavant. There have been discussions for a number of years about it, he said, but there is no plan as yet. “So does this fit into what the gateway should look like?” he asked.

The building at 457 Alfred St. was constructed in 1975 and sold to Five Star Holdings in 2015 for $1.3 million, according to the City of Biddeford property records. The Journal Tribune leased the building until 2018, and then, as a part of Masthead Maine, moved with its sister company, Mainely Media LLC, which publishes the Courier and other newspapers,  to 6 Digital Drive. The Journal Tribune ceased publication in October 2019.

Comments are not available on this story.