Public hearing set for Oak Bluffs marijuana dispensary district

Oak Bluffs planning board members huddled around a town assessors map Thursday as they considered possible locations for a registered marijuana dispensary (RMD) overlay district. Left to right: Brian Packish, Erik Albert, Kris Chvatal, chairman John Bradford, Robert Fehl and administrative assistant Shelley Carter. — Photo by Michelle Gross

The Oak Bluffs Planning Board (OBPB) will hold a public hearing at town hall, 56 School Street, in the lower level meeting room, at 7pm, Thursday, November 7, to hear public comment on proposed amendments to the zoning by-laws in order to create a Registered Marijuana Dispensary Overlay District (RMDOD) where a dispensary, should it meet all local and state regulations, would be allowed to operate.

Planners had previously identified a total of 10 parcels across three locations where a new district might be created, including one in the hospital district, six off Holmes Hole Road, and three along Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, between Goodale Construction Company and Bayes Norton Farm.

On October 3, the OBPB expanded the options to include all designated B1 business district properties that abut Dukes County Avenue, including the School Street garage property.

The Oak Bluffs selectmen, at their October 15 meeting, unanimously expressed concern and skepticism that a dispensary could legally operate on Duke’s County Avenue, or anywhere in the town’s business district.

The Camp Meeting Association is opposed to the proposal.

“At a board meeting just the other day, the Camp Meeting Association voted unanimously to oppose the proposal to put the marijuana overlay district along Dukes County Avenue, which includes Campground property,” said Jeff Ferriell, recently elected president of the Camp Meeting Association. “This of course is a long established religious community with a child-friendly atmosphere, that we think would be adversely affected by a nearby medical marijuana operation.”

OBPB chairman John Bradford told The Times that the OBPB had received a letter of opposition from the Camp Meeting Association, but was not inclined to make any further changes.

“We’re going to wait for the hearing before we make any further decisions,” he said.

As defined by the Massachusetts Department of Health (DPH), a registered medical dispensary (RMD) is a facility that cultivates, produces, and sells medical marijuana to licensed patients. The state requires that a facility must operate at least 500 feet from any school, playground, public park, public athletic field, or similar recreational facility.

Any RMD in Oak Bluffs will only be allowed if a special permit is granted by the town zoning board of appeals (ZBA).