Marijuana ordinance public hearing set for Sept. 15

SOUTHWEST HARBOR Several proposed ordinance changes are going before voters this November, including one focused on local marijuana regulations. 

Two public hearings have been scheduled for the coming week where members of the public can ask questions regarding the proposed changes.  

On Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 5:30 p.m., a public hearing focused on the proposed marijuana ordinance will take place at the fire station. Voters of the town must first opt in for marijuana businesses to be allowed in the town before an ordinance is enacted. 

A second public hearing, scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 17 at 5:30  p.m., also at the fire station, will focus on proposed changes to the Land Use Ordinance and Subdivision Ordinance and a proposed Shoreland Zoning Ordinance, as well as LUO aspects of a Marijuana Ordinance. 

The draft ordinances are available to view on the town’s website. 

Following the proper steps to enact the newly-proposed and proposed amendments to these ordinances is important when voting this November.  

Historically, any regulation regarding shoreland zoning in the town has been done through the Land Use Ordinance (LUO). Because shoreland zoning standards are primarily set and regulated by the state, all changes to the LUO, even if they have nothing to do with shoreland zoning, have to go to the state for approval following a town vote in favor of any such amendments.  

“The overall goal is to separate the shoreland zone from the land use ordinance,” Deputy Code Enforcement Officer Jesse Dunbar told the Board of Selectmen at their meeting on Tuesday night. He also pointed out the last time a zoning map was approved for the town was 1997. “The [land use] ordinance can’t contain any reference to the shoreland zone.” 

In order to expedite amendments to the LUO once they have been approved by voters, code enforcement officer John Larson drafted an ordinance specifically addressing shoreland zoning. But, in order to achieve the efficiency the town is seeking, voters must vote to repeal the former LUO that contained shoreland zoning information. Then, voters will be asked to approve the newly proposed shoreland zoning ordinance, much of which is based on state standards and regulations, and a new land use ordinance that no longer contains the shoreland zoning language.  

There are some changes in the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance that change the way zones are regulated now, as well as updates to the town’s zoning map. That information will be available at the public hearing on Sept. 17. 

Members of the Board of Selectmen voted against changing wording in the LUO that would define patios and decks as structures. According to Dunbar, Larson is proposing changing those two items back to structures that would require a permit. In the last few years, voters approved a change to allow decks and patios not be categorized as structures.  

“I think it should have been left the way it is,” said selectman George Jellison.  

A motion to keep the voter-approved wording in the LUO passed 4-1, with Chairman Kristin Hutchins opposed.  

Proposed amendments to the Subdivision Ordinance will also be discussed at the public hearing on Sept. 17, which the Planning Board is scheduled to attend. 

Language in the proposed ordinances is expected to be approved by the Board of Selectmen at their Sept. 22 meeting in order to go on the ballot for the November election. 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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