Milford deciding between Post Road sites for public cannabis use

MILFORD — The Board of Aldermen has identified two potential locations that could be designated for public cannabis use.

The two areas under consideration are a sidewalk area on Post Road between Barnes & Noble and the Walmart parking lot and the second is at 130 Boston Post Road. Milford, because of its population size, is required to designate an area where the public can consume cannabis outdoors.

Mayor Ben Blake said some aldermen have approached him with ideas and suggestions to consider.

“There is nothing prohibiting us in state statute from changing the location of the particular site adopted in some way, shape, or form not appropriate,” Blake said. “If there is some harm or issue that befalls this particular site that is ultimately chosen, we can adjust, we can tweak and move to another location.”

“After speaking with the chief of police earlier this evening, he informed me that there was no bus stop around the 130 Boston Post Road area that was the second choice that I am bringing to the board now,” Alderman James Tranquilli, R-1, said. “Regardless what area we chose, whether it be first area, the second area or another area someone may have or propose tonight, my biggest concern was the distance between residential and proposed designated area to smoke marijuana.”

Alderman Scott F. Marlow, R-2, said he would not be in favor of the 130 Boston Post Road location because of the proximity to Washington Field and the skate park. He asked the mayor if he had any thoughts or what he would suggest and who would maintain the designated piece of property.

“Likely a sign that proscribes the distance that this area is set at,” Blake said. “There may or may not be public accommodations like a bench. We have to make that determination still. However, I think there needs to be good lighting, I took a tour of both facilities, and at each of these facilities, there are 4,000-kelvin cobra headlights, at least in the areas I thought were appropriate for these two locations that have been suggested so far.”

He added that both of the suggested areas can be patrolled by Milford Police Department if there is any need for that.

“I know that the issue of public transportation has been brought up ... the location the police chief said he prefers does have a bus stop right there, as well as adequate adjacent parking,” Blake said. “Other criteria also include they are far enough away from residential areas and far enough away from schools, houses of worship and other locations we usually associate with zoning requirements for a place that sells and distributes alcohol.”

Alderman Win Smith, R-4, asked the mayor of the two locations proposed, which one he prefers.

Blake said the location on Post Road between Barnes & Noble and the Walmart parking lot is the preferred area for the police chief and the area he thinks is more reasonable and sensible.

“I think the property that I suggested is the best-case scenario, under the circumstances and it sounds like the chief of police agrees because it’s on a bus line,” Alderman Anthony Giannattasio, R-1, said. “I just hope that it’s not close to the bus stop. I think the next step, if this ends up being the area Mayor Blake decides on, is to designate a spot within a spot, we just have to narrow it down. I would like to see it further away from Barnes & Noble, and I think we could accommodate that the way this is laid out. There’s actually an opposite side to this parcel.”

Alderman Raymond Vitali, R-5, suggested waiting to see what other communities do before Milford chooses a designated area for consuming cannabis.

“What we are going to do is advertise the idea that we have a designated area, and you know what that is going to put on the burden on the police department?” he asked. “That’s not a very big area over there, it’s concentrated, and in some terms, it's good because you know where they are, but you really think they are going to smoke it there? We have another thing coming using common sense, we already know it’s not going to happen only there.”

Vitali asked Milford Police Capt. Donald McCollum how this will be enforced — making sure people don’t leave the property and that they stay within the designated area.

“That’s going to be a deliberation of the police department between the chief and the command staff there,” he said. “Those are things that we obviously need to think about and certainly, going to bring that back because those are all valid concerns.”

Ginatassio said he thanks the police department because they are going to have to place their trust in them to patrol and give the board the feedback to see if it is working for them or what needs to be changed.

“It’s a learning process for all of us ... there is no case study,” he said. “We’ve referred to the city attorney, and he said this is new and there is nothing to compare it to. So here we are, it’s a new day, and we have to lead by example, and we have to make the tough decisions before us.”