Milford aims to tighten marijuana facility regulations
Although it has been less than two years since the Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) adopted regulations detailing where medical marijuana dispensaries and production facilities can be located, Mayor Benjamin Blake, the Milford Prevention Council (MPC) and residents are calling on the board to revise those regulations, saying the existing regulations are not restrictive enough.
The board heard testimony at its April 5 meeting from Blake and representatives of the MPC, plus commentary from residents, most of whom live near a planned dispensary on West River Street. The board referred the proposed regulations to its Regulations Subcommittee for a detailed review.
In his presentation to the board, Blake said he supports the use of medical marijuana, but said its use needs to be properly administered and located.
“We are asking you to tighten those restrictions,” said Blake. “In order for the community to embrace this program, it needs to be more thought out.”
Blake said he “shook his head” at the idea that of the nine licensed dispensaries in Connecticut, two would be located within 1.5 miles of each other.
Since those regulations were adopted, the state has approved two dispensaries for Milford, Southern Connecticut Wellness and Healing, 318 New Haven Ave., in a Corridor Design Development District-4 (CDD-4) zone near Buckingham Avenue, bordering the Metro North railroad tracks, and Arrow Alternative Care, 255 West River St. in a CDD-1 zone just north of Rt. 1.
Commenting on the West River Street facility, which earlier in the meeting had received P&Z approval for a site plan, Blake said he questioned why a dispensary license would be given to a facility adjacent to a tutoring center, near a church, and on the same road as a school.
“Like any high intensity business, this is not the proper place,” said Blake. “We are still working with the state and the applicant for a better location.”
The original regulations adopted on Sept. 16, 2014, allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to be located in Corridor Design Development Districts and the Milford Center Design Development District (MCDD), all of which are commercial districts located along major roads. Medical marijuana production facilities may be located in Industrial and Limited Industrial Zones. No production facility has been licensed in Milford.
Under the original regulations, the facilities could be located no closer than 300 feet to the nearest public or parochial school, as measured in a straight line. Parks were not included in the boundary restrictions because there were no parks within 300 feet of these zones.
Dispensaries are businesses where qualifying patients and their caregivers may purchase medical marijuana. Production facilities are indoor locations where marijuana is grown.
The revised regulations would greatly restrict where dispensaries and production facilities may be located. A complete copy of the proposal is available on the city website at.
In the new regulations, such facilities would be permitted in Limited Industrial (LI) and Industrial Districts (ID), provided they would not be located on any site that is less than 1,000 feet of another such facility, as measured in a straight line from the property border.
They also could not be located within the same 1,000-foot restriction of a site with five or more residential units. In addition, they could not be located within 1,000 feet of a variety of other sites, including places of worship, libraries, schools, public buildings, child day care facilities, public parks, playgrounds, or recreation areas, or any place frequented by minors.
With a special permit, and site plan review, dispensary facilities (but not production facilities) could be located in the CDD-1 (Community Design), CDD-2 (Devon Center/Naugatuck Avenue), CDD-3 (Bridgeport Avenue), and CDD-5 (Regional Business Design) zones, following t he same distance restrictions as in the LI and ID zones.
All approvals would be conditional upon the applicant receiving a license from the state Department of Consumer Protection (DCP). These facilities would also be barred from displaying a sign with a marijuana brand name or graphic, and no marijuana or paraphernalia would be displayed where it could be clearly visible from the exterior of the facility.
These facilities would be expressly prohibited in other zones, which include a variety of other residential, commercial, and industrial districts, including CDD-4 (New Haven Avenue) and Milford Center Design District (MCDD).
Attorney Kevin Curseaden, a member of the MPC, said the board was proactive in adopting the original regulations, but he criticized them, saying, “They are so minimal in nature.” He said they are not in conformity with the zoning regulations, are confusing, and do not spell out the details of the application process.
Commenting on the proposed regulations, Curseaden said he did not have time or expertise to conduct a GIS map survey of how they would affect Milford, but said a later review revealed that the 1,000-foot restriction would mean that it would exclude all properties in the proposed zones.
“We wanted to get these regulations to you to get the discussion started,” said Curseaden, saying the board and police department should review the proposal.
Ray Vitali, chairman of the MPC’s Board of Directors, said, “The state regulations are designed in a way to not negatively affect a local community.” Vitali said the location at 255 West River St. is an “inappropriate” location due to the nearby homes, condominiums and the tutoring center.
Board member John Grant, who is chairman of the Regulations Subcommittee, commented on the proposal by saying, “There are a lot of things in the wording that are not correct. If this was passed the way it is written, there would not be a single parcel in Milford where you could have a dispensary or a production facility.”
Residents Support Changes
A number of residents spoke in favor of the proposed regulations, and many made reference to the proposed facility at 255 West River St. Since that application was a site plan review, there was no public hearing for the plan.
State Rep. Pamela Staneski (R-119) said she was a co-founder of the MPC, and echoed Blake’s comments by saying, “I don’t think anyone in the city is against medical marijuana, but it needs a better location.” Staneski said the state regulations may need changing to require a site visit before a facility is licensed.
“It is a matter of time before we address the issue of recreational marijuana,” said Staneski. “How do you want this to look if the state decides to legalize it?”
Carla Sissick of 89 Lori Drive and a member of the MPC said Milford had nine of the 17 applications for facilities “due to our lenient regulations.” Sissick said she had concerns the facility might cause increased traffic, people driving under the influence, and result in lowered property values.
John Skopp of 272 West River St., said he supports the regulation changes, saying he “has great compassion for individuals needing medical marijuana, but 300 feet is not sufficient to buffer a controversial business.” Scott said the business does not belong near a tutoring center, near residential neighborhood, and within a short walking distance of a school.
Doreen Recanati of 34 Pascip St., said she supported the regulation change and presented a petition that she said had 220 signatures from other residents who also supported the change. Anthony Recanati said, “We need to further regulate medical marijuana.”
John Skewczul of 25 Pascip St. said he lives near the facility at 255 West River St., and expressed concern that cars would use Pascip Street as a cut-thru to the Milford Parkway, and asked the board to “consider a relocation of the dispensary.”
Donna Dutko of Buckingham Avenue said she was the only person who spoke in opposition at the Sept. 16, 2014 public hearing at which the board adopted the regulations. Dutko called on the board to adopt a moratorium on other facilities to give it time to review the regulations.
Medical marijuana dispensaries and production facilities are licensed and regulated by the state Department of Consumer Protection, which has 73 pages of regulations detailing how these facilities are operated. The regulations may be viewed at http://www.ct.gov/dcp/lib/dcp/pdf/laws_and_regulations/reg-medical_marijuana-final06sept2013.pdf