HUDSON — The marijuana overlay district may be expanded.
On May 15, the Select Board heard about the potential expansion of the marijuana overlay district for the purpose of a marijuana establishment at 234 Washington Street at the site of the former Brad’s Deli.
At the Select Board meeting, Christopher Bacon, who represented Bacon’s Wine and Spirits, said there is a vacant space next to his store that is 1,800 square feet. The plan would be to allocate that space for a cannabis-based retail business.
Executive Assistant Thomas Gregory said currently there is an overlay district for marijuana distribution, and an extension of the existing district would need to be created, which would “require a zoning change, zoning amendment at town meeting.”
The required article to propose such a change could be brought forth by the owner of the land, the Select Board or a group of residents, according to Gregory.
Select Board member Michael Burks asked if the passage of such a zoning change would allow other parties to have similar businesses in the expanded district.
“The zoning amendment would affect all of the parcels,” Gregory said.
Select Board weighs in
A week before the meeting, he and Director of Town Planning and Community Development Kristina Johnson spoke to Bacon about what an expanded overlay district would look like if it was hypothetically approved.
Johnson explained that on the zoning maps, the areas being discussed are C-6 and C-11, which are located around Washington Street.
They are the same in terms of per use regulations, she said, and she highlighted them together as a starting point for discussion.
According to Johnson, Hudson approached retail permitting using the state statute. Due to where the town stood on the 2016 ballot referendum for marijuana distribution, she said there were requirements for retail consideration. There would be a standard permitting process with the town should a cannabis-based business go forward in that space, Johnson said.
Burks, who was the police chief in 2018 when retail establishments were allowed, said initially no one knew what was going to happen with the referendum. They looked at what places in Colorado were doing in terms of marijuana-based businesses and followed their example.
Burks added, “My concern is that if we can allow one, we can’t stop any of the other ones.”
Chair Scott Duplisea said there has been a careful approach to allowing cannabis establishments in town and “so far it’s worked out.”
However, Duplisea said, “For me, I really have to look at it, get more information and also I’d like to hear from abutters and the public, too.”
In Hudson, Johnson said an incremental approach was taken to limit the geographical locations of facilities.
Duplisea noted more information needs to be gathered. Discussing it at the Select Board is just a starting point, he said. Further down the road, the board would ask for more information and look to the Planning Board for direction.
“At some point, we should review this and make a determination of what we want to recommend,” Duplisea said.
Member Shawn Sadowski said he wanted to see a traffic and parking study of the area. He also asked if there was a way to limit the amount of cannabis-based establishments.
Director of Public and Community Health Lauren Antonelli said the Board of Health is in the process of implementing some regulations related to marijuana.
She believed it was possible to put a cap on retail marijuana businesses, as they can do that with tobacco retailers. There are drafts that will eventually be discussed at a June meeting, said Antonelli.
“That is something that they are definitely going to be moving forward with,” she said.
Antonelli said there were many alcohol and tobacco retailers in town in addition to potential marijuana retailers, and there was the health impact on youth to consider. Research has shown, she said, that the amount of outlets for these products affect youth use rates.
She added, “We’d be happy to discuss with the Select Board or whomever any more on this topic.”
Duplisea asked what the next step would be if the extension to the overlay district were to move forward. Gregory said the board can take under advisement whether to sponsor a zoning amendment. If that is not the desire of the Select Board, then RK Realty would have to submit an article or a citizen’s petition signed by 100 people could be submitted.