CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Selectboard continued to wrestle with the recently approved retail cannabis issue at their April 6 meeting, discussing the authority of the Local Cannabis Control Commission which the board established at their last selectboard meeting, as well as the power of the Selectboard itself to establish ordinances under the heading of public nuisance, adult business, or age oriented related regulation.
After lengthy discussion, the Board agreed to change the structure of the Local Cannabis Control Commission to include just two board members, rather than the entire board, and include community members, with the final number of participants to be determined.
Board Chair Arne Jonynas said that one of the big things they were sorting through was exactly what is the authority of the Local Cannabis Control Commission, which he characterized, based on guidance from the state, as pretty limited. He said that this was why some people were suggesting that the Selectboard pursue nuisance laws, or age-oriented ordinances. “We have to decide – is that something we want to pursue?” he said, and later added, “What do we want to do as a town, if anything? I don’t know the answer.”
Town Manager Julie Hance had recently attended a discussion that included regional planning, Vermont League of Cities and Towns representatives, different cannabis support organizations, and those better connected to the State Cannabis Control Board, to sort through some of the questions that have arisen since retail cannabis has been approved. Hance reported that Chester was the only municipality represented in the discussion. According to Hance, not much was accomplished other than to discuss issues in order to get answers to bring back to the group the following month. She said she would continue to be part of the group so she could inform the Board in the coming months.
Hance said that she was not sure if they’ll get the answers, since, based on feedback from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns at the recent discussion, the State Cannabis Control Board does not understand why municipalities are confused and think their document is very clear.
Hance also said she was looking for clarity on the issues with one board serving two different functions, as, since an ordinance can only be passed by the Selectboard, there needs to be separation: is the Board acting as the Local Cannabis Control Commission or the Selectboard?
Jonynas said that they needed more clarity on how zoning regulations might fit into adult-oriented or age-oriented ordinances.
Chester resident Barre Pinske spoke remotely, saying that the people of the town voted for retail cannabis and that there should be some diversity on the commission rather than having the Selectboard act as the sole representative. “I don’t think is in the best interests of the town,” he said. “It would be nice to have some people involved in the commission that were pushing for this.”
Board member Ben Whalen said that the voters spoke on voting day and that it was their responsibility to make sure it was done. He said he agreed that the make-up of the commission should be more than just the Selectboard. He suggested the commission set up ground rules and specify what the group is responsible for is what we’re trying to achieve.
Jonynas said they put out a statement for public participation and had two responses to date, but they did receive interest from another resident during the course of the meeting. He said they would get the word out to the town further for those interested in participating in the commission. Jonynas then said they would alter the structure of the commission to include public participation and limit Selectboard members to two, so they wouldn’t have to warn the meetings when they gather. They will decide on the final number of participants once they see how much community response they receive.
In other business, Hance will begin negotiations with the newly formed police union beginning at the end of April and asked for two Selectboard members to join her in the process. Arne Jonynas and Ben Whalen volunteered to participate.
The board approved Hance’s suggestion to set up a community meeting on Monday, May 9 to discuss uses for the town’s American Rescue Plan Act funds, which total approximately $900,000. Town department heads have come forward with some of their ideas, but Hance would like to start with a blank slate during the meeting so community members can throw out their ideas and begin brainstorming. Hance noted that this is one-time, tax payer money and it would be nice to have projects done that reach the largest population.
Jonynas agreed saying, “The more input from the pubic the better.”
The board approved Andover’s contract for fire and ambulance services for this year.
Hance announced a correction to the scheduling of the summer Community Breakfasts at the Emergency Services Building, which will be held on the first Sunday of the month and not Saturdays as previously reported, from 7:30 – 10 a.m. The first is to be held on Sunday, June 5 and extend to Sunday, Sept. 4.
The next Chester Selectboard meeting will be on Wednesday, April 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Chester Town Office.