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Conway strikes down extended pot moratorium



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

CONWAY — After nearly an hour of deliberation before passing a “Safe Community” bylaw, bringing the Annual Town Meeting into its third hour, there was still a handful of significant articles left on the warrant.

Around 100 people left the packed Conway Grammar School Monday night after the article passed in regards to immigration and policing in town leaving just over a hundred residents to decide on articles about marijuana, pipelines and green energy.

In a win for farmers who might want to begin growing pot, a measure to extend the current moratorium on marijuana to June 30, 2019 was voted down.

The Selectboard asked for more time to review the state’s Cannabis Control Commission’s regulations, which some neighboring towns have reviewed, implemented and used to craft their own bylaws.

“There are still many, many questions of how this will be implemented,” Selectboard Chairman John O’Rourke said.

Instead, some
residents spoke out saying that if they were to extend their current moratorium, it would be discouraging to local farmers or prospective farmers and residents to town — especially as the town grapples with an aging population and little places for revenue streams. A 3 percent local sales tax on pot sold in town was also passed, the highest percentage towns can ask for.

Once the original moratorium is lifted by the end of the calendar year, if someone wants to open a pot shop in town, they will have to go through the Selectboard, which will have the right to create a host agreement, or deny permission altogether.

“Why we’re having a moratorium is a little beyond me,” resident and lawyer Tom Lesser said. “It seems like, to me, a bylaw for the people who don’t trust the selectmen.”

Lesser pushed forward an amendment to the original article, which even if the moratorium was passed, it would have exempted agricultural lands, allowing for cultivation. This way, whether the article passed or failed, cultivation was going to be possible in Conway.

With the article failing, 30 to 72, it opens up the path forward for recreational marijuana in town, starting in 2019.

Pipeline

Overwhelmingly, remaining residents OK’d a lengthy zoning bylaw that will make it difficult for large-scale industrial projects to be built in Conway, like a pipeline.

The bylaw, passed 98 to 11, was crafted in part with the help of Shelburne and Ashfield, which passed similar regulations this year.

One resident pointed out it seemed like the bylaw was too long, and possibly not worth the trouble — but that was part of the point, its defenders argued. The bylaw, they said, is intended to make it cumbersome for businesses looking to build such projects in town.

Clean energy

A nonbinding resolution to support 100 percent renewable energy efforts in Conway was easily passed to end the meeting, as the clock got closer to midnight.

The resolution was slightly amended to drop the language pushing against getting energy through biomass. Residents argued the intention of this, to instead to look for ways to find energy through cleaner resources like wind and solar, it wasn’t fair for a couple of reasons.

A resident said there is research at the moment that may back biomass ways of producing energy in a relatively clean matter. The other argument offered hit closer to home: a strict interpretation of the language could have halted sugaring season, because of the wood burning to make maple syrup.

You can reach Joshua Solomon
at: jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264