Wayland Planning Board members Tuesday night agreed to hold a public hearing in early January in order to set the wheels in motion on potentially amending the town's zoning bylaw to address marijuana treatment centers.
Town Planner Sarkis Sarkisian told the board that several towns in the Commonwealth have already taken steps to regulate where and whether medical marijuana dispensaries can operate in their towns once Ballot Question 3 goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
It's a question of "whether the town of Wayland should be proactive and submit a proposal for Town Meeting regarding marijuana zoning," Sarkisian told the board.
The planner has already had conversations with Wayland town counsel Mark Lanza, who advised that Wayland wait to make zoning decisions until after the state attorney general has ruled on the legality of bylaws already adopted in other parts of the state. Lanza, Sarkisian said, is concerned that completely forbidding marijunana dispensaries from coming to town will not be approved by the AG.
In order to get an article in the 2013 Annual Town Meeting Warrant, however, steps must be taken now so deadlines can be met. For that reason, Sarkisian said he drafted a bylaw, based on language from other towns, that restricts marijuana dispensaries to the town's municipal services overlay district -- the landfill on Route 20.
"What harm does it do us if we can get a zoning article together?" Sarkisian asked. "My recommendation is that we at least get some type of protection for the town and we put together a zoning amendment. In order to get the attorney general to approve this, we need an area where it can be permitted -- if you want it to be defensible."
Heidi Heilman, director of WaylandCares, explained to the board that she is working with various state groups and legislators to ensure the medical marijuana law is "implemented prudently."
Heilman encouraged the Planning Board to take a "two-pronged" approach to the zoning bylaw that both completely forbids marijuana dispensaries from coming to Wayland and establishes zoning in case the AG rules that towns cannot completely forbid the businesses.
"It is the role of the Planning Board to plan, not react," Heilman said. "I'm concerned that we act now and proactively."
The Planning Board has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the zoning bylaw amendment for Jan. 8, 2013.