Medical Marijuana

Bernardston to answer: ‘What is a restaurant?’

Public hearing set for Monday at 7 p.m.

BERNARDSTON — Proposed zoning changes could clear up confusion about what types of restaurants are and are not allowed in town, among other things.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, in Town Hall, on several zoning and bylaw proposals.

Residents will have their chance to weigh in on the proposals, which include a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, adjusting the borders of the town’s center village residential zone, and allowing drive-through restaurants in the town’s industrial zone, among others.

The recent application by Sandri Oil Co. to add a Dunkin’ Donuts, without drive-through, to its Church Street gas station brought to light the need for one of the changes.

The current zoning bars restaurants “including take-out or drive-through service” from operating in residential/agricultural, residential one-acre, center village residential and industrial zones. They are permitted by special permit in the town’s business and “expedited permitting” districts.

The wording used, said Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Daniel Devine, technically bars all restaurants from operating in those zones. However, the Four Leaf Clover, Antonios II Pizza, Country Corner Store and Hillside Pizza all operate in the center village zone, and all of them offer take-out service.

The Planning Board proposes that the term be reworded “restaurant, drive-in or drive-through,” to avoid confusion and allow take-out service in all restaurants.

Also proposed are the addition of definitions for the terms “restaurant,” “restaurant, drive-in or drive-through service,” and “bed and breakfast.” The Planning Board also proposes that the word “residential” be removed from the center village residential zone.

A proposed one-year moratorium could effectively prevent medical marijuana from taking root in Bernardston.

Earlier this year, selectmen explored the possibility of banning medical marijuana dispensaries townwide. However, the state attorney general declared such bans illegal, but allowed moratoriums in their stead. Now, the town will try to buy some time with a moratorium, so it may explore how to deal with a dispensary, should one come to town.

The medical marijuana law allows one to three dispensaries to be established in each of the state’s 14 counties for the first year. Feasibly, Franklin County could hit its limit before Bernardston’s proposed moratorium would expire.

One proposal that shouldn’t draw much debate would add a table of contents to the town’s zoning bylaws, to make them more easily navigable.

David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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