By Amaris Castillo
The town now has boundaries for marijuana establishments as well as an excise tax on retail sales of marijuana for adult use with Town Meeting approval last week of several articles.
Article 32, which spanned several pages in the Town Meeting warrant, looked to outline boundaries for potential marijuana establishments and expectations within the town's bylaws. Before residents voted to approve the article, Town Manager Jim Duggan asked that several pieces be eliminated after a review by the Cannabis Control Commission.
Article 33, which sought to impose a 3 percent excise tax on retail sales of marijuana for adult use, was approved. Both the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee gave prior recommendations for approval.
"We are requesting the full amount as recommended," Duggan told the audience.
Town Meeting took an interesting turn, though, at Article 34, which essentially sought to restrict retail-marijuana establishments to the industrial zone. George Boag, a resident, put forth an amendment that would allow marijuana establishments in the following business zones: B-1, B-2, B-3, B-4, B-5, as well as industrial zones 1 and 2.
"This is an opportunity to bring money to the town," Boag said. "You just voted on a 3 percent sales tax, but if you don't have places that sell it, we're not going to collect any sales tax."
Duggan said the town has an ability to expand into different zones in the future.
Boag's amendment failed, and Article 34 passed as written.
Last fall, Town Meeting rejected a moratorium on retail marijuana sales.
One of the most heavily discussed articles was Article 22, which looked to appropriate a sum of money for constructing, equipping and furnishing a new fire station to be located at 539 Nashua Road (and to replace the current one at 1990 Lakeview Ave.), as well as for the implementation of security equipment at various school buildings.
Duggan previously said this article was a first step toward a debt-exclusion override of Proposition 2 1/2, and that the amount in question was $4 million for the new fire station and $950,000 for Dracut Public Schools security.
Ray Leczynski, a resident who is seeking state Rep. Colleen Garry's 36th Middlesex District seat this fall, said he supported two projects but couldn't agree "with the bundling of two unrelated items."
"Each item should stand on its own merits," Leczynski said.
He proposed dividing the article into two motions and was backed by 20 people -- enough for Leczynski's motion to be considered. After a great deal of confusion and a flood of comments from residents, residents voted to separate the article into two separate ballot questions.
Town Meeting also:
n Approved Article 8, to appropriate from free cash $250,000 to be used for the constructing of a second floor for office space at the Department of Public Works administrative building.
n Approved Article 15, to appropriate from free cash $72,500 to be used for the contracting of a consultant for an operational audit of the School Department excluding personnel and curriculum.
n Approved Article 30, to OK withdrawing $350,000 from the Affordable Housing account in the Community Preservation Act to be spent on the development of eight units of affordable housing at 11 Spring Park Ave. The site is where the Coalition for a Better Acre plans to build housing for working veterans.
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo. He email address is email@example.com.