WAREHAM – Town Meeting voters can now have their say on zoning changes to revitalize Wareham Village, as well as allow a lab to add a marijuana testing component within 500 feet of Decas School.
Selectmen approved the two articles for the Oct. 26 Town Meeting warrant during Tuesday’s meeting. The zoning changes to promote mixed use development at Wareham Village were OK’d with an amendment introduced by Wareham Planning and Community Development Director Kenneth Buckland at a Planning Board hearing Monday. Instead of allowing building height to go from 40 to 60 feet, the change will allow a maximum of 50 feet in building height by right with a Planning Board special permit option to go as high as 65 feet.
The marijuana-testing zone changes would allow Smithers, an environmental safety testing lab located at 790 Main St., to add a 1,000-square-foot marijuana-testing lab to the facility. Smithers is within 500 feet of the Decas School at 760 Main St.
State law requires a 500-foot buffer between marijuana establishments and schools, but also allows a town to reduce or eliminate that setback by vote of Town Meeting.
The zoning amendment would add the following, “An exception will be made for an existing product testing lab adding marijuana product testing to its services. This use may be authorized by Special Permit in the district in which it is located.”
Buckland told Selectmen Tuesday that it was very a specific article that related to Smithers. Small amounts of marijuana would be tested for safety and potency as foods and chemicals are tested. There would be no retail, cultivation or manufacturing involved.
Selectman Judith Whiteside asked whether it might be considered spot zoning.
Town Counsel Richard Bowen said that “was a real close call,” and would be up to the Attorney General’s review.
Selectmen also OK’d other proposed zoning articles to expand the use of commercial drive-throughs to the Strip Commercial CS District, as allowed by Special Permit; clarify the definitions of multi-family dwellings to denote that the structure includes a common wall; and amend Signs Article 11, redrafted following the recommendation of the State Attorney General’s office. Such signs cannot be regulated by content, according to a Supreme Court ruling, Buckland said.
Selectmen opted against placing an article on the warrant that would have allowed large-scale storage facilities meant to capture the warehousing needs of today’s large-scale delivery retailers, like Amazon. Currently, no storage facilities are allowed in town. The intent would not be to create self-storage facilities, used by individuals. Town Administrator Derek Sullivan said it could be tweaked and be resubmitted for consideration in a future town meeting.
Selectmen approved two sets of town charter review changes for Town Meeting voters to consider, as well as an article that would set the groundwork for establishing some type of fee or payment structure for town solid waste removal. SEMASS will no longer pay for operations at the region’s transfer stations beginning Jan. 1, 2021, and is also finishing up operations at the landfill with its closure expected in December having reached capacity. The town is looking at possible curbside collection as an option, as well as continuing to operate the Route 28 transfer station.
Citizen-petition articles going on the warrant include naming the new elementary school the Wareham Elementary School, and banning the sale of alcohol “nips” in town.