West Tisbury planning board readies for marijuana dispensary

This building at 505 State Road in West Tisbury is the site of a proposed marijuana dispensary. — Stacey Rupolo

At the Monday West Tisbury planning board meeting on Nov. 7, plans to build a medical marijuana dispensary in West Tisbury sparked a discussion as to how the the town’s zoning bylaws would be interpreted during its construction. The discussion, spanning two meetings, was brought to a rapid conclusion when the town’s building inspector, Joe Tierney, said, “Point of order: I do not think the planning board should be interpreting the bylaws. Only one person is supposed to interpret the building and zoning bylaws.”

Mr. Tierney said it is his job to interpret the town bylaws, even though they are proposed by the planning board. “Having more than one office rule on the bylaws could create confusion. There is a process for appealing my decisions to the zoning board of appeals,” he said.

The discussion began at a previous meeting of the board when Geoff Rose, chief executive officer of Patient Centric of Martha’s Vineyard (PCMV), which would be the Island’s first medical marijuana dispensary, sought clarification from the board on whether the 1,000 square feet allowed in the West Tisbury bylaws for dispensary cultivation applied to the building or just to the growing area inside the building. Mr. Tierney’s remarks were in response to board member Beatrice Phear, who said it was her intention when she voted for the bylaw to count only the growing area.

“In reviewing the language of the bylaws, I wanted be sure that my facility would be compliant, so I went to the planning board,” said Mr. Rose. “I just wanted to be sure I was covering my bases.”

In September the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a provisional license to PCMV to operate a registered marijuana dispensary in Dukes County. PCMV’s CEO, Mr. Rose, expects to complete the rigorous setup review and be open for business in fall 2017. Mr. Rose said the dispensary will occupy the former paint and tool store located at 505 State Road, just to the west of Up-Island Cronig’s in West Tisbury.

Planning board administrator Jane Rossi reported on her research into currently operating registered marijuana dispensaries in other parts of the state: “I spoke with several town administrators throughout the state who have dispensaries in their towns, just to get a feel for how things have been going. All reports have been positive. They said that basically the dispensaries are invisible, no signage. They provide a lot of well-paying jobs, and they haven’t had any complaints.”

Setback requirements

In other business, Mr. Tierney addressed the issue of small sheds. He read the section of the state building code that allows sheds of no more than 200 square feet without a building permit. The town’s setback requirement for sheds no larger than 120 square feet is 10 feet from the property line, while a 200-square-foot shed has to meet the normal setback requirements. He said this has created confusion and more work for him when neighbors complain about sheds that are too close.

Mr. Tierney suggested a zoning permit should be required for sheds of all sizes, which cause more sheds to be inspected, as they do not require building or zoning permits now. The zoning permits would set in motion a site inspection to check the setbacks eliminating call backs to deal with complaining neighbors.

Board member Matt Merry suggested that increasing the town’s 120-square-foot maximum without a building permit to 200 feet — to match state code — might also help. Mr. Tierney agreed.

In other continuing business, the board discussed issues related to but not included in the bylaw allowing detached bedrooms of up to 400 square feet, including a bathroom but no kitchen. Among the items discussed were the size of decks for detached bedrooms, the use of bathroom areas as kitchens, the renting of detached bedrooms, and how they relate to affordable housing and the tiny-house issues.

“I have such problems with this issue,” board member Phear said. “I think it is really, really complicated in terms of what the town’s priorities are. We want to keep the density reduced. We want to keep our rural atmosphere. We want to be a nice small village. At the same time, we want to provide affordability. I do think that if we have an affordability restriction for an accessory apartment and no affordability restriction for rental of a detached bedroom, we are, internally, confusing people.”