June 24, 2018
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Housing project, pot dispensaries on Brewer agenda

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BREWER, Maine — When City Council members tabled a zoning change last week for a Brewer Housing Authority project — resulting in a temporary halt to the change — housing authority officials decided to ask for a meeting.

That meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. today.

During the meeting city councilors also will revisit a marijuana dispensaries moratorium put into place a month ago.

“My understanding is members of the housing authority requested a meeting with members of the City Council to discuss last week’s action to table the zone change,” City Manager Steve Bost said Monday.

The Brewer Housing Authority is partnering with social services agency Penquis to build a 32-unit senior housing facility at 258 Chamberlain St., which was purchased by BHA on Oct. 7 from Calvin Bubar, a former board chairman who resigned in July.

City leaders hired an attorney in October to investigate whether any laws — particularly the state’s conflict of interest law — were broken when the housing authority purchased the parcel, since Bubar was leading the board while discussions for his land were under way.

Councilor Larry Doughty asked at the Jan. 12 council meeting that a requested zoning change for the land to high-density residential, required for the project to move forward, be tabled until the investigation is complete.

“I think in the eyes of the public, there is a cloud over this issue,” he said.

In a 3-1 vote, with Deputy Mayor Joseph Ferris — who is Bubar’s attorney — abstaining, the item was tabled.

City planners had approved the zoning change at their December meeting.

The other item on today’s agenda is discussion of a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana clinics opening within city limits.

Councilors endorsed a similar moratorium during a special Dec. 15 meeting, and the new agenda item is only slightly modified from the one passed last month.

“There will be a lot of work being done on the moratorium in the next couple of months,” Bost said.

Maine voters first approved the use of medical marijuana in 1999. The law allows people suffering from certain medical ailments, such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis, to use marijuana, to possess up to 2½ ounces of the drug and to grow up to six plants.

The newly passed measure, which was endorsed by nearly 60 percent of Maine voters by referendum in November, expands that law to allow medical marijuana patients or their caregivers to legally buy marijuana from nonprofit government-sanctioned dispensaries.

Gov. John Baldacci created a 14-member task force in December to develop recommendations for implementing the new pharmaceutical distribution system. The panel has met five times and is preparing to present a final report in the next week or so.

By enacting a moratorium, city staffers have time to review the state’s new rules and compare them with local land use rules, to see if adjustments need to be made, Bost said.

“We assume the state will have guidelines in place” before Brewer’s six-month moratorium expires, he said. “The hope is to not have to revisit this,” but “they can renew that [the moratorium] one more time, if necessary.”

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