GLOCESTER – Retail cannabis sales can be licensed in Glocester, but as of now, not in Pinewood Park.
That decision came after more than three months of debate and discussion by the Town Council regarding where and under what rules the sale of cannabis would take place in town. Last year, voters approved the retail sale of cannabis in the town.
Basically, cannabis sales can take place in B2 or industrial zones in town with the added stipulation that the sales cannot take place within 500 feet of the property line of a nearby Pre-K to 12 school. Licenses would also have to be approved by the Zoning Board, who could add further stipulations to those licenses. The regulations basically follow state guidelines with the exception of adding Pre-K to the requirements.
That decision came after lengthy discussion at the Town Council’s July 20 meeting, in which several residents voiced concerns about allowing sales near the Learning Place, a Pre-K school located in Pinewood Park, designated as a B2 zone. Pinewood Pub owner William Kapanakis had expressed interest in opening a shop in the same small business park as the restaurant on Terry Lane.
In a letter to the council, owner Bethany Brush Zimnoch explained that the school also holds a state approved license for kindergarten students. Allowing cannabis sales nearby, she said, would impact the school in a negative way.
“I’ve worked hard to provide a safe learning environment for the families in our community,” wrote Zimnoch. “I feel that having cannabis retail sales in close proximity to the Learning Place pre-school would not be in the best interests of the families and children in our community.”
Resident Matthew Verrier told the council that he had young children and that he was against allowing cannabis sales that close to a school. He added that he doesn’t use cannabis and that he doesn’t want his children to have to witness its use.
“It seems like there is a lot of push to shoehorn somebody in there,” he added, referring to the council’s ongoing discussion about Pinewood Park’s consideration as a site. “I wouldn’t take my children to that daycare (if a cannabis store were nearby).”
Town Clerk Jean Fecteau explained that there were other areas available under the new amendments where cannabis sales could take place, including land where the former State Line Diner was located in West Glocester. By excluding Land Trust land as park land, more areas were open for possible sales. Following state guidelines would not remove those areas from consideration.
“I hate giving all the power back to the state,” said Council Vice President Stephen Arnold. “We want to do what’s right for the town. My biggest hangup is not calling the Learning Place a school. It has been there for 25 years.”
Town Solicitor David Igliozzi suggested giving the Zoning Board authority to make further restrictions. The council agreed. Fecteau added that Burrillville went with the state guidelines.
“I agree with Arnold,” said Councilor Walter Steere. “Pre-school, school…it’s the same thing. I’m going to do what I can to protect our kids.”
Councilor Jonathan Burlingame added that if the Learning Place does, in fact, have a kindergarten license, it is moot, meaning that it automatically comes under state restrictions and cannabis sales would not be allowed nearby within 500 feet of the property line.
In the end the council voted unanimously to approve the final regulations.