Not enough spots for pot?

Jul 9, 2019

Only two locations for Dartmouth’s future marijuana dispensaries will be available under current zoning bylaws — but the town must allow for three under state law, an issue revealed at a Planning Board meeting on July 8.

The current area zoned for marijuana dispensaries starts at Faunce Corner Road north of the railroad tracks, including the office industrial areas around Ledgewood Boulevard and Ventura Drive, and ends before Old Fall River Road.

Three spots within this area would fit all of the criteria set out in the town’s zoning bylaws for marijuana dispensaries — except that two of the locations are too close to each other, meaning that only one dispensary would be able to set up shop there.

The town is legally obligated to zone for all three dispensary licenses, which are tied to the number of alcohol licenses in Dartmouth.

According to the town bylaws, dispensaries are not allowed to be located within 100 feet of a residential or business district. 

They are also not allowed to be located within 4,000 feet of another dispensary.

Town counsel Brian Cruise noted that at the time the bylaws were drafted at least 17 potential locations were identified within the zone. 

But according to the board, a stricter assessment of what counts as “Residential” has since been put into place to include lots with just the foundations of houses on them — reducing the number of available spots to just three.

“Ultimately it’s the zoning enforcement officer’s call what the use is on pre-built property,” Cruise said, adding that the MA Attorney General’s Office has approved the current zoning plan.

The issue would therefore only come up if the third dispensary is unable to find a location.

As Board member John Sousa noted, zoning uses may change, and more locations could open up by the time the process for approving dispensaries is completed.

“At this point it is the burden upon any business to prove that they have been zoned out,” explained Cruise. “It’s not incumbent upon the town to demonstrate that we have x number of lots.”

The Planning Board decided to revisit the issue at their next meeting on July 22.