Zoning Officials Adopt Cannabis Moratorium in Chester
At its regular meeting on Oct. 14, the Chester Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) unanimously adopted a temporary moratorium on receiving applications for establishments, or other uses, associated with recreational cannabis. The moratorium becomes effective Nov. 1 and will last between six months and a year, unless the PZC adopts regulations for these establishments sooner.
The pause is “intended to allow the community to get its arms around the regulatory implications of the new legalization of recreational use of cannabis in the state,” said Consulting Planner John Guszkowski at the meeting.
During the moratorium, the commission intends to plan and evaluate the impact of these establishments or other uses and consider regulatory language being drafted by the state Department of Consumer Protection, according to the text amendment for the moratorium.
The goal, according to the amendment, is to adopt “a new zoning regulation which addresses these uses in a manner that is suitable to the Town of Chester.”
“It’s hoped that planning and zoning will work with the selectmen, EDC [Economic Development Commission], and others on reaching a common solution for the community,” said Guszkowski.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting on Oct. 14, the commission heard from two members of the public regarding regulating cannabis in Chester.
Michael Joplin, a member on the town’s Board of Finance (BOF), brought forward an idea for a cannabis dispensary in the former KeyBank building, with all profits donated to the town through the Chester Leadership Fund of the Community Foundation of Middlesex County.
Joplin said that he is one of the owners of the former bank building and that it was purchased with the intention of running a cannabis dispensary out of it.
“It seems to us the bank is a perfect location for something like this,” said Joplin. “If it’s successful, then the Leadership Fund could...benefit the town.”
Virginia Carmany, chair of the BOF, who also spoke, prefaced her comments by saying she was there as a resident, not on behalf of the finance board. Carmany discussed the reduction in the town’s residential and commercial tax base over the last five years, by $5 million. She also expressed support for Joplin’s idea.
“The potential business that could go into the KeyBank property would allow dollars to flow into Chester,” said Carmany. “If that is in fact true and it’s set up to allow dollars to flow into Chester, I think planning and zoning should very seriously consider this as a win-win for the town in terms of the Grand List.”
PZC Secretary Bettie Perreault discussed how there are several different factors to consider if an establishment were to be located in the center of town, while PZC Member Elaine Fitzgibbons said that the moratorium will provide the commission time to study what is a complicated issue.
PZC Chair Patricia Bisacky said that the commission will soon be soliciting feedback from different community groups to learn more about the issues associated with regulating cannabis. These presentations could start at the commission’s first meeting in January, she said.