West Tisbury special town meeting takes up marijuana zoning

Voters will gather Tuesday at the West Tisbury School for a special town meeting. — File Photo by Janet Hefler

Two days after daylight savings time ends and the night time claims a bigger chunk of the day, on Tuesday, November 5, West Tisbury voters will be asked to assemble at a special town meeting and take action on 12 warrant articles that include a request to change town zoning to allow for the sale of medical marijuana. The special town meeting begins at 7 pm in the West Tisbury School on Old County Road.

Two articles relate to the sale and use of marijuana. Voters will be asked to approve a new bylaw that would prohibit smoking of marijuana in public places. Violators would be subject to a $300 fine for each occurrence.

West Tisbury police chief Daniel Rossi told The Times the article is not a direct reaction to the new state law legalizing the use of medical marijuana but is designed to eliminate secondary smoke.

“If you are with your grandchild at Lambert’s Cove beach, you don’t want to be inhaling secondary marijuana smoke from people around you,” Chief Rossi said. “This article will help prevent that from happening.”

Also marijuana related, voters will be asked to amend the West Tisbury zoning bylaw to allow for a registered marijuana dispensary (RMD) in the North Tisbury mixed business district and the light industrial districts. The change would allow for the sale and cultivation of medical marijuana by special permit, with a cultivation area not to exceed 1,000 square feet. A two-thirds vote is required for approval. The finance committee (FinCom) voted 3-2 not to recommend the article.

Susan Sanford, owner of Vineyard Complementary Medicine in West Tisbury, requested the zoning change. Ms. Sanford has partnered with Seth Bock, co-owner of Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center on Aquidneck Island, just outside Portsmouth, R.I., one of three operating, registered marijuana dispensaries in Rhode Island, in an effort to open a licensed marijuana dispensary in West Tisbury.

Ms. Sanford, operating as Greenleaf Compassion Care, and Our Island Club founders Geoffrey Rose of Vineyard Haven and Jonathan Bernstein of West Tisbury, operating as Patient Centric MV, are two of four Vineyard applicants to have cleared the first round of the state marijuana dispensary application process. They have set their sights on setting up shop in West Tisbury.

The new state law allows for no more than 35 dispensaries across the Commonwealth, with at least one dispensary, but no more than five, per county.

Also before voters

Voters will also be asked to change the job of treasurer from an elected to an appointed position. Town treasurer Kathy Logue said appointing a treasurer would allow the town to choose among more qualified candidates rather than being restricted to the pool of town residents, as is currently the case with an elected treasurer. She said that the growing complexity of the job requires more knowledge to do the job properly than in the past. This change would also require a majority vote on at the polls on election day, April 10, 2014.

The West Tisbury quorum requirement for town meetings is five percent of the town’s 2,468 currently registered voters, or 124 voters. An article to eliminate this requirement is on the warrant. The FinCom voted 5-0 not to recommend the article.

In a discussion of the issue at a meeting in September, selectman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter said the quorum requirement penalizes voters who care enough to show up when a meeting has to be postponed. He said two special town meetings were recently canceled due to lack of quorums, one last May.

West Tisbury voters will reconsider a $10,800 transfer from Community Preservation Act funds to cover the town’s share of the cost of replacing windows in the Dukes County Courthouse. Voters rejected the article at the April 9 town meeting on the recommendation of the finance committee, because of uncertainty about whether the town had previously approved money for the repairs. The FinCom recommends the expenditure 5-0.

While each of the other Island towns approved funding for the windows project with little dissent, the language of the identical warrant articles said the project would not go forward unless each of the six towns approved its proportional share of the project cost.

Voters will also be asked to create stabilization funds, one for roads maintenance and one for buildings maintenance; add $5,202 to the building inspector’s personnel line for additional hours; add $5,000 to the building inspector’s expense line; add $8,223.56 to the town insurance budget line; and appropriate $7,442 from the community preservation historic resources fund to purchase a lockable filing cabinet with appropriate air flow to store and preserve historic West Tisbury documents and literature at the town library.