Resident questions second-home snub

DOVER - At its meeting Tuesday, the Dover Selectboard decided on language for a survey regarding marijuana dispensaries in the town. The survey will have two questions: whether the town should allow a medical marijuana dispensary, and whether it should allow a recreational marijuana retail location, if and when that becomes legal. The board intends to use the survey results as guidance on whether to adopt ordinances regarding the issues. The survey will be available in the coming weeks at the Dover town office and will be open to voters as well as taxpayers.
The board requested that a distinction be made between voters and taxpayers. That distinction was a topic of discussion at the board’s last meeting, when resident Adam Levine said he thought second-home owners should be surveyed in addition to taxpayers. At the time, vice chair Vicki Capitani and town clerk Andy McLean said that while they valued input from second-home owners, they thought it was a matter for voters to decide. This week, resident Ira Colby, who was a second-home owner but is now a permanent resident, said he was upset to read reports of those remarks.
“When I read last week that we value second-home owners but we really value people who live here, that sounds like ‘Animal Farm,’” said Colby. “All animals are equal all the time, but some are a bit more equal than others. I would caution us on trying to place a value on people who are contributing to our community, one way or the other.”
Police chief Randy Johnson said he understood the desire to get the opinions of all taxpayers, but that he would not support the options of second-home owners outweighing those of voters. “I would really have an issue if the board, regardless of whatever was the highest vote, took the second-home owners over your voters,” said Johnson. “I get getting their opinion and you can weigh it, but to me this is a town issue.”
Colby also raised concern about the precedent the survey is setting. The survey is being pursued after the board was told by McLean that it could not hold a special Town Meeting vote in order to adopt an ordinance. The ordinances, which would aim to ban or restrict marijuana dispensaries, are being considered by the board at the request of Johnson, who voiced his opposition to a medical marijuana dispensary being located in the town after individuals expressed an interest in pursuing an application to open and run one there.
“From this point forward any new ordinance that comes up, a person could say I want a survey, versus you all taking your responsibility to create the ordinance,” said Colby. “You’re creating a precedent for this board and future boards. Is that a path you want to go down?”
The board overwhelmingly said “yes,” with board member Sarah Shippee saying the board would take responsibility for writing the ordinance, but that marijuana is a highly-charged topic.
“There is a lot of emotion around this on both sides,” said Shippee. “This is not like is there going to be 22- or 23-acre zoning in East Dover. This has a lot more emotional weight. And we thought it was not fair to not let the people in the town speak to us before we write the ordinance.”
Though at its last meeting the board discussed holding a special selectboard meeting to discuss the matter as a way to kick off the survey period, this week they opted to make the surveys available as soon as possible without holding a special selectboard meeting first. Per the board, surveys will be available “as soon as possible” at the Dover town office until June 15. The results will be discussed at the board’s June 19 meeting.

The Deerfield Valley News

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