MERRIMAC — A decision on a new plan to allow recreational marijuana sales in town will have to wait after a vote on a citizen petition was postponed at a Special Town Meeting on Monday.

Roughly 125 residents filled the cafeteria of Dr. Frederick N. Sweetsir School, but Town Moderator John Santagate told them the citizen petition seeking to allow retail marijuana sales in town could not be voted on after all.

“Certain matters of procedure have not been met, therefore the subject matter of the article is not proper for the meeting at this time," Santagate said.

Voters in Merrimac initially approved a statewide ballot question legalizing and regulating the recreational sale and use of marijuana, 2,130 to 1,733, in 2016.

The sale of recreational marijuana within town limits was not approved by voters in a special election the following year, 763-641. In April, a citizen petition seeking to amend the zoning bylaws and allow retail cannabis sales did not receive the required two-thirds vote, 228-213. 

But another citizen petition signed by 125 residents seeks to allow the sale of recreational marijuana in the town's Office-Light Industrial District and was submitted to the town clerk’s office Sept. 29.

State law requires a two-year waiting period before a proposal to alter zoning bylaws can be brought up again after a failed town meeting vote.

But, according to Town Clerk Gwendolyn Lay Sabbagh, town counsel has deemed the most recent citizen petition to be different enough from the request in April so it appeared on the warrant Monday night as Article 12.

State statute requires that a citizen petition seeking to change zoning bylaws must also go before the Planning Board for a public hearing and the soonest that can happen is Nov. 5.

“As a result, it is my intent to take up all of the articles on the Special Town Meeting warrant tonight with the exception of Article 12,” Santagate said.

Santagate also told residents that a vote on the citizen petition would have to wait until after the Planning Board’s public hearing and another Special Town Meeting will be held at the school Nov. 12 to address the matter.

In other Special Town Meeting news, voters approved a request to add $154,835 to the annual operating budget for salaries and expenses.

A request to raise $4,770 to purchase three voting poll pads was also approved as was a request for $12,050 to complete playground handicapped accessibility work.

Recent work at the public library came in $45,000 under budget so voters approved an order to reduce the town’s borrowing for the project by that amount.

Voters approved a request for $60,000 for water infrastructure improvements, as well as $50,000 to replace a generator at the wastewater facility.

Voters also approved new bylaws for the Merrimac Council on Aging and gave their OK to the creation of a five- to 13-member Commission on Disabilities.

In addition, a request to streamline the Town Meeting bylaw was approved by voters.

Selectmen were granted approval to issue requests for proposals to build a communications tower next to the West Main Street water tower. 

A request to transfer the care and custody of a portion of surplus land on Pinehurst Road to selectmen was also approved.

A request to impose an excise tax on the sale of recreational marijuana was tabled until after the Special Town Meeting on Nov. 12.

Special Town Meeting handout: www.merrimac01860.info/217/Town-Clerk.

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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