LACONIA — The City Council this week considered the zoning ordinance proposed by the Planning Baord to regulate the location and operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, but withheld its approval pending the outcome of a second public hearing before the council at its next regularly scheduled meeting on March 9.
Although only one person spoke before a small gathering at the public hearing held by the Planning Board earlier in the month, Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) asked the council to hold second public hearing before putting the proposal to a vote and his colleagues, led by Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) agreed.
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will select, license and regulate the nonprofit corporations owning and operating the ATCs. DHHS has received 14 applications to operate ATCs in four geographic zones, one of which consists of Belknap, Strafford and Rockingham counties. At least one application has been received for each of the four geographic areas, but DHHS has declined to specify either how many applications were submitted for each area or where within each area applicants propose to operate. However, where such facilities operate are questions for municipalities to address through their zoning ordinances.
Rather than propose different zoning regulations for dispensing, cultivating and processing, the Planning Board chose to to apply the same regulation to all three. The ordinance would confine ATCs to the Industrial Park, Industrial and Airport Industrial districts and prohibit them elsewhere. The Industrial Park District refers to the O'Shea Industrial Park on Lexington Drive. There two Industrial Districts downtown — at the west end of Watrer Street and west end of Court Street — two in the south end on Province Street (NH Route 107) either side of the bypass— and another on Blaisdell Avenue. The Airport Industrial District lies on Artisan Court, east of White Oaks Road bordering the Gilford town line, and is reached by Lily Pond Road.
ATCs would be prohibited in residential districts and within 1,000 feet of schools, daycare centers and places of worship. The dispensaries would be allowed to operate between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. All facilities must be fitted with security alarms and cameras, operating around the clock and connected to the Police Department and an alarm monitoring company.
Corporations seeking to operate in the city would require a conditional use permit as well as an approved site plan. A conditional use permit requires an applicant to demonstrate that the use will not endanger the health or safety of the public, substantially diminish the value of nearby properties, adversely impact vehicular or pedestrian safety, not impair natural resources or necessitate excessive public expenditures. The use must also be compatible with the neighborhood and the uses of adjacent properties. In addition, any signage must comply with the relevant regulations.
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