York board rejects appeal to shut down marijuana growing operation

Posted Aug. 20, 2014, at 1:52 p.m.

YORK, Maine — Over the objections of numerous abutters and residents who voiced concerns about increased traffic, safety and their quality of life, the York Appeals Board on Wednesday upheld a July 9 decision allowing a medical marijuana facility to continue operations.

Neighbors of the medical marijuana facility at 17 White Birch Lane indicated after the meeting they would consider an appeal of the decision to the York County Superior Court.

The Appeals Board made its unanimous decision before a standing-room-only crowd in the York Public Library, with members voicing reluctance for their decision.

Board member Mike Swant, who had abstained during the July vote, said, “I have great empathy with the neighbors. … Would I like to live there? I wouldn’t.”

The board was making its decision based on zoning regulations, members said.

They ruled, as they did on July 9, that medical marijuana is a manufacturing operation and therefore grandfathered at the site. Abutter concerns such as regulatory oversight and vehicles going to the facility late at night were not within their purview, they said.

Board member Britton Garon said, “There are concerns there’s a change in the neighborhood. I just don’t see how we have the authority to address those.”

Chairman Robert Lascelles said, “I’m struggling again to think about this issue whether it’s a change. I still think it’s manufacturing; the implication is difficult to the neighborhood.”

Abutter Michael Briggs of Emus Way had asked the Appeals Board to reconsider its July decision allowing building owner Robert Grant to continue allowing nine caregivers to grow medical marijuana in his warehouse.

Grant should have first sought Planning Board approval, argued Portland attorney Joshua Hadiaris, representing Briggs and three other neighbors.

Hadiaris also said the definition of manufacturing did not include marijuana growing.

Attorney Durward Parkinson, representing Grant, said the argument this time around was the same as in July.

“There’s nothing new here,” Parkinson said.

Briggs has 45 days to appeal Wednesday’s decision to the Superior Court.

After the meeting he referred comment to Hadiaris, who said, “It’s absolutely a possibility.”

Sarah Sanford, who was also represented by Hadiaris, said after the decision, “Even though this has been a hardship on the community, we’ll get through this as a community.”

More than half a dozen residents, mostly abutters, spoke — all against allowing medical marijuana operations to continue.

Abutter Clark James said, “We’re talking about a cash business, an illicit substance that’s pretty portable.”

Louise Littlefield of Birch Hill Road said no one is looking into whether the growers are operating as a collective, which is barred by state law.

Jim Eaton of Birch Hill Road said, “The volume of cars that’s picked up on that road is dramatic, more than half are from out of state. … It seems as though these doors are closed and we’re not allowed in to know what’s going on.”

The Appeals Board did side with Briggs in his contention that the public should have been allowed to speak at the July 9 meeting. Lascelles agreed, saying he had erred in believing he had closed public comment at the original meeting on the matter held on June 25.

The issue was originally before the Appeals Board because Grant appealed a town notice of violation issued to him for a change of use at the White Birch Lane property.

 

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