Residents in Belmont are facing a deadline and butting heads over where to zone pot stores in the community.
Since approving Question 4, which legalized marijuana, residents also voted to limit the number of marijuana retail facilities to just two shops. Now the question remains: where to put them.
“Some want the retail to be in certain parts of the city and others want it in different parts, so the planning board needs to determine that,” said Belmont Board of Selectmen Chairman Adam Dash. “Ultimately the Town Meeting needs to make a decision or else there is no zone restrictions at all.”
One proposal, before the planning board tonight, includes the Belmont High School campus in a marijuana overlay district.
Dash points out that regulations in town already require marijuana facilities be at least 300 feet away from any schools and residents are considering an increase to 500 feet. That increase, however, would limit the areas available in the proposed zone, he said.
Belmont resident Emma Thurston said she wanted to see the businesses in the downtown as a way to increase retail traffic.
“I think it is a bad idea not putting it in the main district because it can draw in a lot of business,” said Thurston. “I would think if someone is concerned about it, they would also want it to be as visible as possible.”
Dash, who noted there are no active applications to open marijuana facilities in Belmont, said he’s also hearing from residents who want to see zoning push pot shops to the outskirts.
“We don’t live in a vacuum town; marijuana will be in the areas around us and it will be brought into Belmont whether we have stores here or not,” Dash said. “So as far as banning it in Massachusetts, that ship has sailed and if marijuana is going to be in town, we may as well tax and regulate it so that we have some control. It is about being rational and reasonable.”
Either way, Belmont has to make a decision about zoning bylaws by its November town meeting. If the issue isn’t decided by then, the zones become nonexistent and an applicant could seek to set up shop almost anywhere they choose.