NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 24, 2014

Proposed zoning for medical marijuana facilities released

(Continued)

Fowler praised the “comprehensive” six-page document that would allow medical marijuana cultivation or distribution centers only in the town’s commercial and industrial zones. His one concern, he said, is the 300-foot buffer zone the facilities would have to comply with to distance themselves from residential dwellings and places where children congregate in scheduled activities.

“When I reviewed (the draft bylaw) I saw a 300-foot buffer zone (proposed),” Fowler told the board. “Three hundred feet from where children congregate seems too small.”

Fowler urged the board to increase the buffer zone to 1,000 feet, similar to the federal government’s recommendation for drug-free zones surrounding schools.

A buffer zone prohibits medical marijuana facilities from locating within a specific distance from any type of facility in which children commonly congregate in scheduled activities, including educational institutions, child care centers, libraries, playgrounds, public parks, youth centers, public swimming pools and video arcades. In addition, they would need to site beyond the buffer zone from dwelling units, or residences, under Salisbury’s ordinance.

According to assistant town planner Leah Hill, the board considered three options in regard to buffer zone distances: 300, 500 and 1,000 feet. They decided on 300 feet because that’s the state’s drug-free school zone requirement.

Planning Board chairman Robert Straubel said in considering buffer zones, the board was told one reason the state’s attorney general would reject a town’s regulations would be if the buffer zone was so large that it would be physically impossible to site the facility.

Planning Department staff mapped out buffer zone distances from places where children congregate in the applicable zones to investigate that very issue, Hill said, and she believes increasing the buffer zone to 1,000 feet would not preempt the ability to site in Salisbury as it related to distances from children’s activities. But, if dwellings remain in the buffer zone regulation, that could be another matter, she said.

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