NORTH ATTLEBORO — Representative Town Meeting members voted Monday to change zoning bylaws and reduce the buffer area for medical marijuana operations around places where children congregate.
Previous town bylaws restricted locations for medical marijuana cultivation centers or dispensaries to venues with a buffer zone of at least 500 feet from schools, churches, gymnasiums, playgrounds and other areas where children congregate. But Monday’s vote reduces that buffer to 300 feet.
Submitted by the planning board, the article said the reduction would make a few more properties available for medical marijuana use, but all properties would remain in the I-60 area around the industrial park.
A medical marijuana enterprise, Hope Heal Health, has been scoping out the potential of setting up shop in North Attleboro. But, there are few locations open inside the industrial park that would adhere to the previous zoning bylaws, especially after the relocation of Waters Church to the area earlier this year.
The vote increases the number of venues available to Hope Heal Health in the industrial park, although the company said they are also considering other locations throughout North Attleboro.
Some RTM members Monday expressed concern over the reduction.
Ronald Legasse of Precinct 6 said the previous bylaw was just passed in 2014, and members should wait to see how it plays out before looking at any revisions.
“We haven’t even implemented (that bylaw) yet and we’re already trying to open it up to new options. I strongly suggest that you turn down the recommendation and we make it at least 500 feet,” he said.
But Garrett Plath of Precinct 4 said the reduction would only make a few more properties available, and would stop North Attleboro residents from legally growing medical marijuana in their homes. Cardholders can cultivate their own plants if the nearest medical marijuana dispensary is considered a hardship based on distance or cost.
“What’s happening right now is anyone who qualifies can get a card and can grow in their house — no buffer zone. So that person can live next to a school, no buffer zone is required,” he said. “A 200 foot difference isn’t the world. If I remember correctly, there’s only four properties in town that can even qualify for this, so we’re not radically changing the distance from schools or whatever. Three hundred feet is a lot better than zero feet, which is what we have now without that buffer.”
The vote required a two-thirds majority for approval.
KAYLA CANNE can be reached at 508-236-0336, at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SCNAttleboro.