Could pot shops be coming soon to a location near you? The answer is, it depends where you live in Sanford.
Early last year, the City Council’s Zoning Subcommittee spent several months discussing the issue of retail sales of adult-use (i.e. recreational) cannabis, also known as marijuana. In particular, the Subcommittee debated where retail sales should be allowed and how many stores should be licensed. All members were in favor of limiting retail sales and keeping stores out of downtown Sanford and Springvale village. Cannabis is already available to purchase from medical dispensaries here, by those who have a medical cannabis card.
Once the Subcommittee agreed on a direction, the issue came before the full City Council, which voted in June to have City staff work on drafting proposed amendments to Sanford’s ordinances. Staffers, primarily Planning Director Beth Della Valle, spent the next six months crafting the proposed amendments.
Currently, there are eight properties in Sanford that are zoned for marijuana cultivation and processing, and medical marijuana dispensaries. Five of those are already zoned for retail sales of other goods, and it is in these five locations that it is proposed to allow retail marijuana sales. One is in the central part of the City, while the other four are in South Sanford. The properties are:
- 72 Emery St. This is the large mill building where S3 Weaponworks is located. There are a number of cannabis cultivators/processors doing business here. While it is zoned for retail, there may be not be sufficient parking.
- 9 Renaissance Way, across from the Center for Shopping in South Sanford. This building formerly housed Off-Track Betting and Roundabouts Grill.
- 27 Hancock Lane, a few doors down from Renaissance Way. This is the former location of Hancock Lumber.
- 12 Smada Dr. and 22 Smada Dr. These two locations are next to Walmart on the edge of the industrial park off Main St. Retail sales in these locations are conditional use only, meaning they would have to be approved by the Planning Board and meet conditions which would include a traffic analysis.
The other three locations where cannabis businesses are currently zoned and operating are not zoned for retail, so are not being considered for adult-use retail sales. Those are 1603 Main St., 168 Country Club Rd. and 81 Industrial Ave.
At a workshop on January 5, Planning Board members got a first look at the proposed zoning changes. Planning Board member Dianne Connolly said she questioned why the City Council has done a complete turnaround from a few years ago on the issue and is now considering allowing retail adult-use sales. Planning Director Beth Della Valle noted that there have been changes in membership of the Council since that time, and that the City and the Council have since had experience with the cannabis industry. “A number of communities have adopted the opportunity for adult-use retail sales…folks have observed that the sky has not fallen,” she said. She added that the Council is interested in the revenue from licensing fees as well.
While the zoning changes will be debated by the Planning Board, issues of licensing and fees will be heard by the City Council. The Council’s Zoning Subcommittee discussed those issues at its meeting January 11. Ms. Della Valle presented some information on other southern Maine communities’ licensing fees for adult-use retail stores. They range from a low of $1,400 in South Portland to as high as $50,000 in Lebanon, with most in the range of $5,000-$6,000.
Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio said the licensing fee should be high enough to make it worthwhile for the City. Deputy Mayor Herlihy agreed, but wanted to make sure it was designed to cover the City’s costs for code enforcement and public safety, rather than to make a profit. City Manager Steve Buck said he is recommending $15,000 for an initial license fee but has not yet determined a recommendation on the renewal fee.
There was some discussion on how to award licenses if the City allows just one store per property. Some communities have had lotteries to choose a licensee and those have been challenged in court. Ms. Della Valle said that the City could allow property owners to make that decision when there are multiple interested parties for a particular location.
The Planning Board will hold the first public hearing on the proposed zoning changes on Wednesday, January 19 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held on Zoom, and broadcast on Channel 26 as well as streamed on YouTube and recorded for later viewing. (We will post the Zoom link as soon as it is available.) If you are unable to participate in the Zoom session, but would like to express your opinion on the zoning amendments, you can email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The amendments regarding licensing and fees will be discussed again at the February 8 Zoning Subcommittee meeting before going to a public hearing at a future City Council meeting. The whole process is likely to take several months before any licenses are issued.