By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Zoning also approved to clear way for Market Basket
Shrewsbury – Shrewsbury has joined a growing list of cities and towns that have adopted bylaws establishing temporary moratoriums prohibiting recreational marijuana establishments. Article 20 provides a bylaw to this effect for Shrewsbury and was adopted at Shrewsbury’s recent Annual Town Meeting May 24.
The Town Meeting members also approved a measure to approve zoning changes that will allow a mixed-use development that will have a Market Basket store as an anchor to be built.
Shrewsbury Town Planner Bernard Cahill first addressed the recreational marijuana moratorium.
“It’s temporary and will allow more time for the town to incorporate any state regulations between March and July of next year,” he said.
Cahill added that on April 1 and again in July, recreational marijuana establishments are going to go the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) and ask for a permit. The CCC will look at each town’s bylaws. If there is a moratorium on their books, then the establishments would need to go back when the moratoriums run out in November. The CCC will issue initial regulations in March which will be finalized in July.
The state legislature is looking into how towns can opt out entirely. The new bylaw will prohibit permits for retail marijuana establishments through the fall.
The third and final night of Town Meeting opened with Article 23 seeking an amendment to the zoning map. Articles 23 and related Article 24 would clear the way for the commercial development and Article 24 would specifically allow one- and two-bedroom residential units and less restrictive designs for projects of 25 acres or more. The mixed-use proposal currently on the table would be anchored by a Market Basket supermarket.
Assistant Town Manager Kristen Las informed the meeting that the sole purpose of Article 23 was to change the designation of the parcel in question from rural to commercial and, if not passed, it would not impact the passage of Article 24. She also relayed that public hearings are provided to inform the public of possible zoning changes and clarified that this zoning change would make the property more economically desirable.
Much discussion took place and the proponents pointed out that these zoning changes will allow for significant and transformative change to an area that is in dire need and that another opportunity of this nature might not be coming for a very long time.
The $65 million development, they said, also provides a present need for the community, adding an additional apartment complex in the immediate area and creating positive tax revenue.
Regarding Article 24, Mark Donahue of Fletcher Tilton Attorneys at Law, representing the property owner, Route 20 Nominee Trust, assured the meeting that the development contained key limitations. Specifically, the total number of residential units cannot exceed 250, units are limited to two bedrooms and 10 percent will be set aside for low- to moderate-income individuals. The mixed-use development cannot be built until detailed approval by the Planning Board, special permit issuance and site plan approval is received.
Opponents cited the following concerns: increased traffic, negative impact to the town regarding insufficient infrastructure, increased demand for police and fire, and a potential for adding more children to an already stretched school system.
Proponents, however, countered with the message defeating these articles would send to future developers that Shrewsbury is not a welcoming environment.
Both articles required a standing vote and were approved.