OXFORD — The Planning Board will meet on Thursday, July 27, to determine whether it will set precedent by approving a permit for a medical marijuana grow facility that does not conform to the town’s current Zoning Ordinance or deny the application and force the applicant to appeal the decision.
At issue is the application by Stevenson Enterprises Inc. for the town’s third and final medical marijuana permit that can be issued under the April 2016 special town meeting revised Medical Marijuana Ordinance.
The Planning Board approved the preliminary site plan application for the medical marijuana grow facility at 517 Main St., the former Service Master building, on Route 26, at its April 13 meeting, contingent upon the tenant meeting security measures required by the town’s ordinance. The building is owned by Brett and Kathy Stevenson.
Although the applicant has pending approval from the Planning Board to claim the third permit, final approval was delayed when Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman, who was hired as Oxford’s CEO in February, discovered the plan did not conform to the town’s current Zoning Ordinance with a 250-foot setback.
The problem, she said, is that the board mistakenly approved a medical marijuana grow facility permit for another applicant that did not conform to the town ordinance and therefore set the precedent.
“This could go either way,” Corey-Whitman told the Planning Board at its meeting Thursday, July 13 of the board’s upcoming decision to approve or deny the application.
“They have someone ready to move into that building. They want an answer,” she said of the building owners.
Corey-Whitman said in August 2016, the Planning Board approved a medical marijuana grow facility permit with a 260-foot setback from the nearest residence for former Burlington Homes building at 620 Main St. owner and well-known Auburn developer George P. Schott of Nobility LLC.
Corey-Whitman said Tuesday, July 18 that the former Burlington Homes setback should have been measured from the residential property line, not the residence. The ordinance requires a minimum 250 setback from the nearest residential property line.
“Burlington is not in compliance (with the zoning ordinance,)” she said.
Attorney Dana Hanley, of Hanley & Associates in Paris, told the board in April that it set a precedence by approving the medical marijuana grow facility at the former Burlington Homes factory.
The Stevensons’ building is 160.1 feet from the nearest residence. Because of that earlier precedence-setting decision, he argued, the board should not deny the Stevensons’ application based on the setback requirement.
Whether the entire former Burlington Homes building was approved for use, which means it would be operating outside the provisions of the town ordinance, is now being questioned by board members but Corey-Whitman said record keeping issues had made it difficult to determine exactly what was requested last year.
Corey-Whitman said in her opinion the Stevenson application should be denied because it does not meet the town’s setback requirement, but if they appealed based on the precedent set by the Burlington Homes application, she said Stevenson Enterprises Inc. would “most likely” win the appeal.
The board asked Corey-Whitman to get an opinion from the town attorney before the July 27 meeting.
Hanley has informed Corey-Whitman that he has been asked by the applicant Stevenson Enterprises Inc. to represent the company at the July 27 Planning Board meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Town Office.
If approved, the proposed grow facility would be in the large garage on the west side of the complex. A second business – ACT NOW plumbing store – was given the go-ahead by the Planning Board at the April 13 meeting to operate in an adjacent Stevenson building.
The Stevensons have no financial or other interest in the marijuana businesses other than to lease the building, Hanley told the board in April. The tenant of the medical marijuana grow facility wished to remain anonymous at this time. Hanley said the tenant would only be growing medical marijuana and not dispensing it at the site, but no further information about that operation has been made available.
In April 2016, 14 voters at a special town meeting agreed to revise the ordinance by reducing the prohibited zone for medical marijuana grow operations near a public or private school from 1,000 feet to 500 feet in order to meet state requirements, restricted medical marijuana grow facilities to a mixed-use zone, and limited the number of grow facilities to three – the same as the number liquor stores allowed at a time in Oxford.
The ordinance regulates medical grow operations that are large enough to be required to register with the town. It does not include individuals with medical marijuana permits or caregiver licenses but does include certain types of medical grow operations that produce larger amounts of marijuana to supply various dispensaries around the state.
While the town has theoretically handed out its three medical marijuana grow permits, Corey-Whitman said at least two other grow businesses have inquired about space in Oxford.
“They all want to be on Route 26,” she said.