P&Z adopts medical marijuana regulations

Medical marijuana dispensaries and production facilities are now part of Milford's zoning regulations, but don't expect such businesses to open in the city anytime soon. The state of Connecticut has licensed six dispensaries and additional production facilities, but is not currently accepting applications to open additional businesses.

At its Sept. 16 meeting, the Planning and Zoning Board unanimously adopted regulations detailing where medical marijuana dispensaries and production facilities can be located.

Under the new regulations, which are effective Oct. 1, medical marijuana dispensaries may be located in Corridor Design Development Districts and the Milford Center Design Development District, all of which are commercial districts located along major roads. Medical marijuana production facilities may be located in Industrial and Limited Industrial Zones.

In both situations, the facilities may be located no closer than 300 feet from the nearest public or parochial school, as measured in a straight line. According to board member John Grant, who is chairman of the board's regulations subcommittee, 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 nearest dispensary is located in Branford.

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

The only person who commented on the regulations was Donna Dutko of Buckingham Avenue who expressed concern regarding the buffer zone, saying that St. Mary's School on Gulf Street is located adjacent to a commercial and industrial zone.

“I think there needs to be greater distances for places like St. Mary's School, which are right next to the district,” said Dutko.

In response, Grant said, “These types of facilities have a lot of restrictions by the state,” including requirements for an armed guard, and limiting access to approved patients and caregivers.

Dutko then said, “I was more concerned about the growing of marijuana.”

Grant said the state regulations for growers require a 24-hour security system and an armed guard. He said marijuana would be grown inside a shipping container inside a building.

“You can only enter them if you are registered with the state,” said Grant.

According to Grant, the board's regulations subcommittee is in the process of reviewing its regulations and deleting unnecessary regulations.

The board unanimously approved a minor update to its regulations for residents who wish to raise pigeons and doves. The regulations had required an annual review by the P&Z. With the deletion of one line, an annual review of the approval will be conducted by the P&Z administrative staff, not the board itself.

The board tabled a proposal to delete regulations for communication buildings, stations and towers, pending a written opinion from the city attorney.

Grant said the subcommittee recommended deleting this regulation because cell phone towers are regulated by the Connecticut Siting Council, which overrides any local zoning regulations. He said this local regulation also applies to ham radio and CB radio antennas, but such facilities can be regulated as accessory structures in other parts of the zoning rules.

“Since we have no control of commercial towers, it was felt this regulation should be deleted,” said Grant.

Ed Vanchot of New Haven Avenue was the lone resident to comment on the issue. Vanchot spoke against the deletion, saying the regulation is needed to protect residents. He spoke in opposition to a proposed AT&T tower on Eels Hill Road, which was approved as an 8-24 referral by the P&Z, but rejected by the Board of Aldermen.

“This means one of these towers can go anywhere in town,” said Vanchot. “I see this as a back door way of bringing AT&T into town.”

In response, Grant said, “This board has no control over the location and approval of cell phone towers. This regulation cannot be enforced in any way.”

Board member Jeanne Cervin said she supported keeping the regulation as part of the zoning rules.

“If a municipality has a regulation in place, it does give some weight to what the siting council decides,” said Cervin.

The P&Z had a role in the AT&T tower because it was proposed for city-owned land. Under state regulations, the P&Z acts in an advisory role to the Board of Aldermen.

If the P&Z approves use of city land, the aldermen can approve a contract with a simple majority; if the P&Z opposes uses, then the aldermen need a two-thirds majority to approve a contract with an applicant. At issue in the AT&T case was whether the city would allow use of its land by AT&T for a tower, which is a contractual question, not a zoning decision