Clinton PZC to Put marijuana Zoning to Public
By Eric O’Connell/Zip06.com • 07/27/2021 03:10 p.m. EST
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Now that the State Legislature voted to legalize adult recreational cannabis use Clinton’s Planning & Zoning commission (PZC) will hold a public hearing on Monday, Sept. 13 about proposed new zoning regulations that would allow a marijuana retail store in Clinton.
Last month Connecticut legislators passed a bill that legalized recreational marijuana use by adults in the state. At a PZC meeting on July 12, consultant planner John Guszkowski told the commission members that it is now up to the local zoning authorities to enact regulations that govern the sale of marijuana. With commission members saying they expect heavy interest in the topic, the PZC unanimously voted to hold a public hearing on the regulations on Sept. 13. There is a possibility that hearing will be held in person rather than virtually.
The PZC Regulation Subcommittee has proposed a zoning regulation change that would allow retail cannabis operations by special exception in some of the business districts in town. Guszkowski said that the application would follow “the same guidelines and restrictions that we currently have for package stores. This would include the separating distances from the retail to churches, schools, etc.”
Guszkowski explained that similar to how the state places parameters on how many package stores can be in a town based on population, there are similar rules for marijuana. However, the rules are much stricter for marijuana.
Under the current rules, there can be one package store for every 2,500 people, but there can only be one marijuana retail location per 25,000 people.
“This means Clinton will only ever have one,” Guszkowski said to the PZC.
There is language in the state’s bill that leaves open the possibility of changing that limit in the future.
Guszkowski explained that there are three different options the commission has when it comes to marijuana regulations: It can allow marijuana retail in town; it can allow it with restrictions as the subcommittee proposed; or it can prohibit it.
Guszkowski said that the best course of action for the PZC is to put something on the table and then see what the public and commission members think and go from there.
“Just about every town I deal with is wrestling with the question of whether to allow retail cannabis facilities and how to regulate them. There are obviously strong opinions on both sides of the issue, and there is sometimes a desire to put off the question and hold some sort of community conversation about the topic,” Guszkowski told the Harbor New.
Guszkowski said that so far in some of those cases the conversation still didn’t produce a consensus on what to do, which can lead to problems.
“If the town waits too long or takes no action, an applicant could simply apply as a general retail operation, which may not be ideal,” Guszkowski said.
As a result, Guszkowski said the best course of action is to propose a zoning application so that the PZC could hold a formal public hearing and decide how to proceed.
PZC members joked about the hearing probably taking a long time and drawing a large crowd. Guszkowski said that the PZC could leave the hearing open longer than normal to make sure everyone is heard.
“The consideration of this matter will have an open, public hearing. Because it’s a commission-generated proposal, the PZC is not bound by the normal public hearing timeframes, and they can leave the hearing open as long as necessary to receive public input.”