LEONARDTOWN, Md. – It was a long evening for the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County, as many citizens showed up for a public hearing about a newly proposed zoning ordinance relating to cannabis growth and production in the county.
A vast majority of those who attended and spoke have been negatively impacted by the recently constructed cannabis grow house in Abell, Maryland.
The proposed text amendment, brought to the Planning Commission in March, would add regulations to the industry, including three new use types for each approved cannabis use type within the medical cannabis field.
Although the industry is heavily regulated at the state level, counties are allowed to enact “reasonable zoning regulations,” which would control the location of medical cannabis facilities. That is partially what the goal of this text amendment would hope to accomplish.
This amendment would provide further regulation across all new uses, forcing all new facilities to go through a public hearing before the Board of Appeals.
The Planning Commission also placed the recommendation that all new proposed facilities present a concept site plan before them, before recommending the adoption on June 6.
Some expressed concerns over the length of time it has taken for the commissioners to act on the industry.
“When I met here in February with some of the commissioners, they said they could handle this in six weeks. It is almost six months [later] before you are going to vote on this. That is unacceptable,” Victoria Brown, a Seventh District resident said. “What has happened to our community has put relative against relative, neighbor against neighbor, friends against friends… You need to pass this zoning, you need to protect the citizens of St. Mary’s County so this cannot happen anywhere else in our county, please.”
Many other citizens offered concerns about how the quality of life in the Seventh District has been tarnished by having the “monstrosity” in their community.
“I guess my one question for all the commissioners… do any of you live in Abell, Maryland?” Russel Jones, who frequently drives by the recently constructed cannabis grow house in the Seventh District, posed to the board. “Would you have approved something like this in your neighborhood? Pretty simple question… because my children who will be on this property for many years have to ride their bikes by it, we have to worry about safety, and we have to worry about environmental impacts.”
Jones’ brief statement earned a rally of applause from the audience.
One resident, a direct neighbor of the facility, went so far as to demonstrate to the commissioners how the “weed farm” has negatively impacted the critical area.
Through several example documents and videos on a thumb drive, Anthony Dameron showed what appears to be a dwindling stream that he said he used to be able to kayak on. He also showed the board the impacts that alleged “sediment runoff” from the facility has caused.
Another common theme throughout the evening came back to health concerns from the facility, and how properties in the area are being negatively impacted.
“I have always felt that a person should be able to as he wants to what they want to with his own property. Until he starts infringing on my property,” Francis Gibson said at the hearing. “When you start hurting my health, when you start killing my property values, when he is making noise in the middle of the night with blowers and lights on all night long. That’s not being able to do what you want with your own property, that’s bothering my property, bothering my life.”
The hearing concluded with a brief message from Commissioner President Randy Guy, hoping to ease some citizen concerns.
“One comment was that we don’t answer back… I am looking at my directors here right now, and I hope they do make a response this time,” Guy said. “If you don’t hear anything back, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org”
The public comment period for the zoning change is still open until the close of business on August 2.
The proposed amendment is expected to go back to the commissioners at their August 23 meeting for a vote.
See the full presentation given before the hearing below:
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