Recently the Oak Bluffs planning board voted to create an overlay zoning district for registered marijuana dispensaries (RMD) which includes the complete length of Dukes County avenue and they did this against the specific requests of the police department and the selectmen and in sharp contrast to the 500-foot buffer to parks and recreational facilities as found in their own bylaws. I am extremely disappointed in the board’s apparent indifference to families of this community, the safety of its residents and the health of this neighborhood. Dukes County avenue’s proximity to the library, town hall and the elementary school doesn’t seem to correlate with the planning board’s mandate to “promote the general welfare of the town” and “protect the health and safety of its inhabitants.” Their proposal will be brought in front of town voters at the upcoming town meeting as Article 13.
I fully agree that people with chronic pain and genuine medical conditions should have the ability to purchase marijuana legally in order to alleviate their symptoms, but Dukes County avenue is clearly the wrong area for an RMD. It is important that this warrant article be amended to exclude Dukes County avenue because if it fails, the nonprofit dispensary could be located anywhere and in any district of Oak Bluffs.
Available information from California and Colorado, where RMDs exist, clearly shows that the families and neighborhoods surrounding these facilities end up suffering; there are increased levels of violence, assaults, break-ins and criminal drug dealing. I would have to think that if the planning board was aware of this information it would not have put our children in danger by allowing this district to occur so close to our public parks; Viera Park at one end and Sunset Lake and the harbor at the other end. The proposed district also places the RMD squarely in the middle of the town campus. Kids walking to and from school or the library would be walking past his facility and the associated violence. We need to protect our children and families by changing the proposed overlay district.
Dukes County avenue also happens to be last undeveloped B1 district on the Island. Locating an RMD in this area will adversely affect the growth of this important business district and indirectly determine what businesses choose to locate there; the same research shows that registered marijuana dispensaries reduce trade and revenues of businesses located in the same general area. With Oak Bluffs embarking on a renewed effort to help improve the local economy, this portion of the RMD district will make this task much harder. This area should be nurtured rather than poisoned.
The health of the Dukes County avenue neighborhoods should be safeguarded as well. The RMD will have negative impacts our property values as well as encourage unhealthy elements to fester within this area. The proposed maintenance and vacant building bylaw and the town’s tentative plans to enhance this community by creating a new approach via sidewalks to the harbor will be stymied if this portion of the overlay district is allowed. Let’s help this area flourish by changing the planning board’s proposal.
The residents of Oak Bluffs as well the families whose children participate in Little League games at Viera Park and use the library need to appeal to the members of the planning board and make sure that they understand that this is not the right area for an RMD; contact the planning board, attend their public hearing on Nov. 7, write to the selectmen, and attend the town meeting on Nov. 12 in order to let them know that their decision relative to Dukes County avenue is wrong and get the article amended. I urge the planning board to reconsider their decision to include Dukes County avenue in the registered marijuana dispensary overlay district. Let’s get this fixed and change the proposed district so that our kids and communities are safe.