Planning Board Looks Ahead to Medical Marijuana Moratorium, Great Road Zoning

September 15, 2016

By Eliza Rosenberry

Planning Board“It seems like we’re in a little bit of a lull,” Planning Board Chair Jeff Cohen observed during a quiet September 13 meeting that ran significantly ahead of schedule.

The Board took the opportunity to weigh priorities and preview projects for the year ahead, including Great Road zoning, medical marijuana moratorium, and data management. The Board also held a scheduled public hearing for minor zoning bylaw amendments that will come before November’s Town Meeting.

Board members Amy Lloyd and Shawn Hanegan are currently reviewing consultant proposals for business district rezoning on Great Road and updates are expected by the end of the month. Soon the Board will convene a group from across the town—including representatives from other Boards as well as residents and business or property owners—to work on the initiative over the course of the next year.

New Planning Director Tony Fields commented on the proposed medical marijuana moratorium which will be before November’s special Town Meeting. If the moratorium passes, Fields said the Board can expect to consider zoning bylaws or amendments as far as where medical marijuana dispensaries could be located in Bedford before the moratorium expires next year.

“I know how it was solved in two neighboring towns and several others,” said Fields, who previously served as planning director in Burlington and Billerica and has conducted research on this topic for several statewide planning organizations. “Typically, the nature of the discussion in most communities is: is it something we’d be willing to see on Main Street, and—if not—where in town is an appropriate location?”

Fields suggested creating a task force for further consideration of the issue. He indicated these zoning recommendations would likely be ready for Town Meeting in November 2017.

Assistant Planner Catherine Perry told the Board she hopes to create a more efficient electronic filing system for record keeping. The department has used Microsoft Access but will look into using PeopleForms, which Perry said is recommended by the Town’s IT department. Board members broadly spoke in support of this effort.

“I think data management is more and more critical, and this should be a pretty important effort,” Lloyd said.

The Board held a public hearing for zoning bylaw amendments, mostly corrections or minor edits for consistency. One amendment regarding IT, Life, and Materials Science and Engineering companies in business districts prompted some conversation among Board members, who questioned the clarity of the categorization as it could include both a small software office as well as a company with laboratory facilities.

“I see this one as an item that could elicit some discussion at Town Meeting,” Cohen said.

The amendments will be proposed at Town Meeting on November 9.

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