PLYMPTON– At a brief meeting on Monday, March 28 Selectmen updated the public on a few ongoing major issues, closed the Annual Town Meeting warrant, but not the Special Town Meeting warrant, and acknowledged ten citizens’ petitions that have been certified by Town Clerk Tara Shaw. Board Chairman Mark Russo was not present, and Selectperson Colleen Thompson was acting Chair in his absence.
Controversies On Hold
Two on-going controversies have been put on hold awaiting further information, according to Selectperson Christine Joy.
Ring Road resident Jeff Randall’s proposal to locate a medical marijuana ‘grow-op’ on his farm, in an agricultural/residential zone appeared to meet the requirements of Plympton zoning by-laws, although he was seeking relief under a state law that prevents local zoning by-laws from interfering in certain activities, including agriculture, known as Chapter 40A(3). Although Plympton by-laws forbid medical marijuana cultivation in an agricultural/residential zone, they specifically exempt proposals that meet the requirements of Chapter 40A(3).
Although different attorneys at different times throughout this months-long controversy interpreted Chapter 40A(3) differently, apparently the Commonwealth has not determined if marijuana cultivation is actually agriculture. (And if it is not, that would stop Randall’s proposal in its tracks as 40A(3) would not apply and his farm is in an agricultural/residential zone).
At the behest of Selectperson Joy, and a unanimous vote by the board, Plympton’s state legislators, Representative Thomas Calter and Senator Michael Brady offered to file legislation to clarify the law, by introducing a change in wording to 40A(3) explicitly forbidding marijuana cultivation in the definition of agriculture. According to the legislators, Plympton is the first town to challenge marijuana cultivation as agriculture.
Joy reported that there is no news yet from Beacon Hill on the definition of agriculture, at least as it applies to 40A(3) nor on the pending legislation.
Brook Retreat “Sober Living” house
The Brook Retreat, a so-called “sober living” facility located at 55 Brook Street, has also recently been in the news due to a resident leaving the facility and terrorizing a couple neighboring the “sober house” by attempting to break into their home using an ice-chipping tool. Police report that he succeeded in damaging the house, breaking an outside light and a storm door while shouting threats.
Although the three principal operators of the facility spoke with Selectman Russo, they refused to do so publicly, and have not responded to a request for comment from the Express.
A large number of residents came to the selectmen’s meeting on March 21 to hear a report on the conversation Russo had with the operators of the Brook Retreat. His report did not appear to satisfy those gathered.
At the suggestion of an audience member, the board unanimously voted Selectperson Joy to meet with Town Counsel to explore any action the town could take to improve safety and communication with the unlicensed facility, which, it appears, is not required to be licensed by any state agency.
Joy reported back to the public that she had spoken to Town Counsel, and that they have a few “good options”, but did not say what those were stating that she was waiting for Town Counsel to prepare an official opinion for the board.
The board and the townspeople will have to wait for further information on another controversial topic in town.
10 Citizen’s Petitions for Town Meeting
Annual Town Meeting Warrant Closed; 10 Citizens’ Petitions accepted
The board closed the warrant for the May 18 Annual Town Meeting on Monday evening, although they chose to wait to close the Special Town Meeting warrant in order to give themselves some more time to tweak it.
A large number of citizens’ petitions will appear on the warrant this year, including several addressing medical marijuana grow facilities, another that would end the town’s participation in the Community Preservation Act, two addressing the town’s demolition delay by-law, and two that would order the town to sell certain lots that are in tax-foreclosure status.
The three medical marijuana related warrant articles include one that would ask to see if “the Town will vote to allow the residents of Plympton to vote on the proposed marijuana grow facility on Ring Road that is presently before the Board of Selectmen.”
According to Town Counsel at a previous meeting, any vote of the sort would necessarily be a non-binding referendum, as Selectmen have full decision-making power to oppose, send a municipal letter of non-opposition or a letter of support for any type of medical marijuana operation.
It is not apparent if the measure passes when the referendum would appear on a ballot; due to time constraints, it could not appear on this year’s annual town election ballot.
Another warrant article asks the town to vote to instruct the board to oppose any Registered Marijuana Dispensary (RMD) applications located in an agricultural/residential zone until the state makes definitive decisions on whether the agricultural exemption in Chapter 40A(3) applies to marijuana.
The final article asks the voters to amend the town zoning by-law, adding a new article: “Article XXXI…All applications for a Registered Marijuana Dispensary (RMD) in which any of the facilities (dispensary, cultivation, or processing) are located in the Town must be approved or denied through a ballot question to be voted at the Annual Town Election. Passage of the question will authorize Selectmen to provide a letter of support or non-opposition to the applicant, failure of the question will authorize the Selectmen to provide a letter of opposition to the applicant.”
On a different subject, an article asking voters to revoke Plympton’s participation in the Community Preservation Act (CPA), which it accepted at the 2008 Annual Town Meeting, will be on the warrant. The CPA, funded by a 1.5% additional excise tax on real property and matching funds from the state, established a dedicated funding source, “to acquire and preserve open space, parks and conservation land, protect public drinking water supplies and scenic areas, protect farm land [sic] and forests from future development, restore and preserve historic properties, and help meet local families’ [sic] housing needs.”
Two other warrant articles ask the voters to make changes to the demolition delay by-law, which protect houses of historic value from being demolished without significant delays, which are generally used in order for the town officials and property owners to find an alternative to demolition.
The current delay is 18-months, and one article would reduce that to six-months. The other slightly changes language in another section of the by-law, to reflect the change if the voters approve the shorter delay period in the aforementioned article.
Finally, two other articles list several properties that are in tax-foreclosure status and ask voters to instruct the town to sell them. They appear all to be vacant lots, although some are of significant value– one roughly 16-acre lot on Palmer Road was assessed at $203,100 in 2016.
• Animal Control Officer Frank Bush announced a low cost rabies clinic at the Kingston Animal Shelter on Saturday, April 16, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Aimed to assist seniors, the cost is $10. Contact the ACO at 781-585-9444 with any questions before April 11. Transportation if needed by COA van.
• The Selectmen will not meet next week, but will meet next on Monday April 11.