Shelton could permanently ban marijuana facilities through P&Z regs

The Shelton Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) appears to be moving in the direction of banning marijuana dispensaries and grow facilities in Shelton.

There is now a nine-month moratorium on such facilities in the city, but the moratorium is set to expire on June 10.

On or before that date, the P&Z could vote to amend the Shelton zoning regulations to define pot dispensaries and grow facilities as prohibited uses within the city.

Rick Schultz, city P&Z administrator, said the language prohibiting the pot facilities would be similar to what is in the regulations now for junk yards, asphalt plants and medical waste facilities.

'We’ve been out front on this'

The P&Z passed a motion on May 13 directing P&Z staff to move forward on actions required to enact a ban by changing its regulations. The process will involve a public hearing.

Schultz said Shelton may have been the first city or town in the state to pass a moratorium, and could become the first to alter its regulations to outright ban the facilities as well.

“We’ve been out front on this,” Schultz said.

Legal guidance

The P&Z has a subcommittee that has been looking into the issue and receiving legal guidance from the city’s corporation counsel, Thomas Welch.

While Connecticut has legalized medical marijuana and now is sanctioning a limited number of dispensing and grow facilities, marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Schultz said Welch has advised the P&Z subcommittee that based on the federal law, Connecticut municipalities have the legal right to enact regulations that would prohibit the facilities, despite current state law.

“Corporation counsel is of the mindset the federal statute will prevail,” Schultz told the full P&Z during a recent meeting.

Legally vulnerable without a ban?

Anthony Pogoda Jr., P&Z vice chairman, asked if Shelton could be open to a legal challenge if it turns down an application without having a ban on the facilities in its regulations.

“What happens if they do come in and we have to fight it?” Pogoda said.

Schultz said the goal in the coming weeks would be to “fast track” a change in the regulations so a P&Z vote could take place on or before June 10.

Before such a vote can occur, the city will need to send notices of the proposed regulation change for review to a regional government organization and a state agency.

‘Too many unknowns’

P&Z members who spoke at the May 13 meeting appeared to be in favor of outlawing marijuana dispensaries and grow facilities in Shelton.

Member Nancy Dickal said she supported a ban. “If we do this, there would be no confusion,” she said.

“There’s just too many unknowns to go forward” with such facilities at this time, Dickal added.

Member Virginia Harger said a regulation ban would be an extension of the current moratorium. “This will show continuity,” Harger said.

Moratorium provided time

The nine-month moratorium passed last year was intended to give the P&Z more time to look into how to handle medical marijuana facilities. The moratorium was approved 6-0.

Schultz said if the ban is approved, posting the revised regulations online should help to prevent companies from looking at Shelton as a potential site for marijuana-related facilities.

He now regularly receives calls from entities inquiring about establishing medical marijuana dispensing or grow facilities in Shelton, Schultz told P&Z members.