While the state ultimately decides who can open a medical marijuana dispensary in Dukes County, Oak Bluffs voters will have the chance Tuesday to take part of that permitting into their own hands.
At a special town meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday evening at the Oak Bluffs school, town voters will decide to adopt or reject a bylaw regulating the sale of medical marijuana in town.
A quorum of 50 voters is required; there are 13 articles on the warrant, They range from items linked to long-term capital spending to several housekeeping items. Moderator Jesse B. (Jack) Law will preside over the special session.
The most heated debate is expected to surround a proposed bylaw establishing a medical marijuana dispensary overlay district. The planning board included four regions in their proposed overlay, which they say were chosen for easy access by private and public transportation, availability of parking spots and ability to protect the confidentiality of the dispensary clients.
But selectmen and some residents have opposed the proposed district on Dukes County avenue, a region they say is too close to residential areas and public parks.
Residents were expected to contest the appropriateness of a Dukes County avenue dispensary at the a planning board public hearing last night. Following the hearing, the board may possibly amend the article on the town meeting floor to revise the district.
If voters do not approve some version of an overlay district, by default marijuana dispensaries could be permitted anywhere in areas zoned for business, which include Dukes County avenue, the downtown area and some parts of the North Bluff.
The planning board will inform voters of the consequences of inaction, said John Bradford, chairman of the planning board.
Dispensary applicants would still be subject to state permitting, which prohibit dispensaries located within a 500-foot radius of a school, day care center or any facility in which children commonly congregate. The planning board’s proposed regulations also establish a radius of protection of 500 feet from any school or child care facility.
At least one but no more than five dispensaries may receive state approval in Dukes County. This week West Tisbury voters approved a bylaw that would allow dispensaries by special permit in their mixed business and light industrial districts. Edgartown voted last spring to impose a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries so the town could draft regulations. Tisbury selectmen said this week they will not draft special regulations for marijuana dispensaries, as they would be permitted in the secondary business district.
The proposed Oak Bluffs planning board district also includes a small area near the hospital, two parcels on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road near Goodale’s sand pit and one location on Holmes Hole Road near the Tisbury town line.
Hospital president and chief executive officer Timothy Walsh has said the hospital has no plans to open a dispensary on their property, as the use of medical marijuana by a Medicare-funded organization is prohibited under federal law.
At the meeting the town will also test popular support for two capital improvement projects. Voters will be asked to dedicate $239,150 to prepare architectural plans for construction of a new town hall, and $287,000 for joint fire and EMS station plans.
Conceptual plans estimate that the town hall will cost more than $6 million, and the cost of the 21,000-square-foot fire and EMS station is pegged at about $8 million.
Voters also will be asked in two articles to approve $750,000 for the restoration of Niantic Park. The first $400,000 was previously reserved in Community Preservation Act funds; voters will be asked to authorize an additional $350,000 to finance the remainder of the project cost through bonds or a line of credit.
The last two articles on the warrant will be withdrawn by selectmen on the town meeting floor. Submitted by the planning board, the articles sought to create a bylaw that would set minimum property maintenance requirements for the business districts. The articles are expected to come back in the spring following more discussion among townspeople.
Two cemetery commission articles seek to continue an expansion project at the Oak Grove cemetery. Voters will be asked to transfer $25,000 from cemetery lot sales to fund improvements, including stump removal, hydroseeding and water access. Cemetery commissioners are also looking to replace the existing water pipes in the cemetery with the transfer of an additional $10,000. Water is used on the grass and flowers planted at the graves.
In the spring, voters will be asked to approve a road for access to the new lot, said cemetery commissioner Jesse Law.
Voters will also be asked to:
• Appropriate $39,000 to fund the state-mandated triennial re-evaluation of real and personal property by the town assessors;
• Spend $14,702 to cover prior year bills;
• Transfer $130,000 to buy Scott Air Packs for the fire department, and to upgrade the dive and rescue equipment.
A copy of the special town meeting warrant is available at the Oak Bluffs town hall or on the town website.