March 22, 2019
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York tells landlord to stop using property for medical marijuana

YORK, Maine — York Community Development Director Steve Burns has told the owner of property on White Birch Lane to stop allowing his land to be used for medical marijuana, according to a notice of violation and order for corrective action he issued April 30.

In the notice, Burns ordered medical marijuana uses to stop immediately and not to resume until and if the uses are approved by the planning board.

Burns issued the notice and order to landlord Robert Grant of Eliot, and not to the individual marijuana growers, called caregivers. Grant faces a fine of $100 per day for noncompliance, according to the notice.

Grant could not be reached for comment.

Medical marijuana operations appeared to be continuing at 19 White Birch Lane as of May 2. The area surrounding a red metal warehouse smelled of marijuana. Two people there denied knowledge of an order being given to their landlord to shut down and declined further comment.

The red warehouse holds an estimated 10 garage bay doors. A tenant in the area, who did not give his name, said at least nine of the 10 units are rented to marijuana growers.

At least five people are growing medical marijuana at the facility listed in the violation notice as 17 and/or 19 White Birch Lane, according to Burns.

York officials have not shut down operations as Grant has 30 days to appeal, according to Burns. Grant had yet to file an appeal with the York Board of Appeals as of last week, according to Reenie Johnson, appeals board assistant.

Burns said Friday he is only concerned with land use. The use was never formally presented to or approved by the town, Burns said in the notice. Burns also saw nothing about a change of use, he said.

A person identifying him or herself only as a caregiver emailed a statement indicating the issue is more than that of land use.

“I am somewhat confused by the town’s response,” the caregiver wrote. “I am happy to comply with any reasonable requests or ordinances enacted. It seems like I am being singled out because of negative connotations associated with this industry.”

The caregiver is licensed by the state and is providing medical marijuana for personal use and for five other patients, according to the statement.

“Many of these patients lack the resources or space to grow for themselves and elect to have a caregiver grow their plants to provide them with the medicine they need,” the caregiver said.

One is a Vietnam veteran with debilitating arthritis, according to the statement.

“I am providing a service for sick people in need. It is in a safe and secure facility that is legal based on what the voters in Maine enacted,” the caregiver said.

The growing of marijuana for medical use came to the attention of town officials earlier this year after neighbors complained of smell and increased traffic, according to comments made at the time by Police Chief Doug Bracy.

State law allows for growers, as “caregivers,” to cultivate up to six blooming plants for themselves and up to five patients.

Tenants at the property growing medical marijuana include a jeweler, the owner of a hotel in York Beach and another person who originally was growing pot in a three-unit residence and decided to rent space to get away from growing it in the home, according to the notice.

“You described a husband and wife who each grow,” Burns said in the violation notice to Grant. “I said you have described five such uses in this building, and you responded that there are ‘way more than five.’ As I reviewed the files, I see nothing in writing anywhere about medical marijuana as a use.”

On April 23, Burns said he, Grant and Code Enforcement Officer Amber Harrison met on the White Birch Lane site at the driveway but went no farther.

Based on the site visit and research of public records, Burns is citing violations for expanding a driveway impervious area into a shoreland overlay district; failure to obtain a shoreland permit; failure to amend the site plan approval; and establishing medical marijuana cultivation, processing and storage without planning board approval pursuant to a zoning ordinance, change of a nonconforming use.

The town has nothing on the books to regulate growers or to even know who they are, according to Burns, who has presented a proposed ordinance to the planning board.

York cannot issue an outright ban on growing medical marijuana, according to Burns. The ordinance proposes to allow medical marijuana to be grown in the commercial Route 1 zone, an area roughly between the former Bournival dealership north to Wild Willy’s Burgers.

A second public hearing on the ordinance is at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 22, at the York Public Library. Voters are expected to be asked to give final approval for the ordinance at the November referendum.

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