Public hearing on cannabis business land-use regulations on March 23

The Charlotte Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Thursday, March 23, at 7 p.m. at the Charlotte Town Hall to hear public comments on proposed amendments to the Charlotte land-use regulations regarding standards for permitting and regulating cannabis businesses in Charlotte.

Retail cannabis sales are not currently allowed in Charlotte. The town must agree by a vote of the residents to allow retail sales in town and so far has not. No change to this policy is contemplated within these proposed land-use regulation updates.

The state has mandated that all aspects of cannabis production be classified as businesses, including the growing of cannabis. As a business, it must comply with land use regulations much as how other businesses in town are required to do.

In order for the town to require cannabis businesses to comply with our local permitting, the town must have a cannabis control commission. The selectboard has voted to create a cannabis control commission, much like the town’s liquor control board. The selectboard appointed themselves the cannabis control commission for Charlotte, thus providing an opportunity for the town to weigh in on proposed cannabis businesses before the state permit is issued. With the creation of a cannabis control commission in Charlotte, cannabis businesses are now subject to the town’s land-use regulations. Charlotte’s current land-use regulations did not cover the requirements for cannabis businesses, hence the need to update them.

Background information on why the planning commission is proposing these land-use regulations updates:

  • In recent years, the Vermont Legislature authorized the establishment of an adult use cannabis industry. A state Cannabis Control Board (CCB) was set up to administer state licensing and regulation of cannabis growers, processors and other cannabis businesses. The statute also carved out a scope for municipal regulation of these enterprises separate from state licensing.
  • Prior to the industry launch last October, several cannabis growers obtained state licenses from the CCB and began cannabis cultivation in Charlotte without any local review or permits. In response to concerns expressed by residents about some of these businesses’ community impacts, the Charlotte Planning Commission decided to develop and propose specific regulatory standards for cannabis businesses that would be added to the Charlotte land-use regulations. The proposed standards are now ready for public hearing, after which the planning commission can make changes based on citizen input and send the final draft to the selectboard.

The planning commission developed these proposed standards considering the following:

  1. Cannabis growing, processing and manufacturing are regulated as businesses.
  2. The proposed land-use regulations additions are consistent with how other businesses in Charlotte are regulated.
  3. The specificity of the proposed land-use regulations additions are to provide a clear set of guidelines for cannabis businesses to follow with their land-use permit application.
  4. The proposed land-use regulations are designed to allow cannabis businesses to operate their businesses without adversely affecting neighboring property owners, thereby avoiding future impacts, the same as the land-use regulations do for other businesses operating in town.

The planning commission had five open meetings during its twice monthly meetings where it heard from and engaged with members of the public about the proposed land-use regulations under consideration. Development of the proposed land-use regulations also used research and examples of how other municipalities have drafted land-use regulations for cannabis businesses. These municipalities include other Vermont towns, as well as examples from other states where cannabis has been a legal business for longer than in Vermont (Colorado and California in particular).

The proposed amendments to the Charlotte land-use regulations include:

Updates to dimensional standards, conditional uses and general standards
Because Charlotte’s current land-use regulations were created before this new industry was authorized, they are silent on where, how and under what conditions the town could allow cannabis businesses. This first section of the proposed amendments describes what types of cannabis businesses may be allowed as permitted or conditional uses, in which zoning districts.

Specific review and performance standards
A proposed new section in Chapter 4 of the Charlotte land-use regulations spells out the scope of the town’s regulatory authority for cannabis businesses, general requirements for cannabis enterprises and specific review and performance standards for permitting cannabis businesses. They stipulate how typical impacts of cannabis enterprises should be mitigated through the permitting process. The process described will require most applicants to apply for conditional-use and site-plan approval by the town’s development review board to obtain needed permits, then apply to the Charlotte Selectboard (acting as the local cannabis control commission) to obtain a local license. Under statute, these are prerequisite steps to obtaining a state license (or license renewal) before the Vermont Cannabis Control Board.

New definitions of various types of cannabis businesses and uses
This section proposes several new definitions of cannabis and types of cannabis businesses which are referenced in the above to be added to Chapter 10 of the Charlotte land-use regulations, which follow the definitions in state statute.

The proposed land-use regulations revisions, a user’s guide and a detailed report on how the proposed changes comply with state statute and the Town Plan, are available on the town website. The public hearing warning, which includes a Zoom login link, has been posted to the town website’s “Meeting Calendar and Agendas” page, linked under the meeting date.

If you are unable to attend this hearing, you may submit comments in writing to Town Planner, Charlotte Town Hall, 159 Ferry Rd., Charlotte VT 05445 or via email to the address below. Written comments are welcome even from those who choose to attend and speak during the public hearing. For more information, contact Larry Lewack, Charlotte’s town Planner, 802-425-3533 ext. 206.