Lenox voters asked to decide fate of short-term rentals, pot stores ban

(Emily Thurlow) Ted Silverman and Dick DeFazio.

LENOX — Back-to-back hearings spurred an impassioned debate at the Planning Board Tuesday night.

The hearings were the result of two citizen petitions; one proposing the prohibition of operating any recreational marijuana enterprises in Lenox and another that created language for short-term rentals to be included in the Lenox’s zoning bylaw.

The key purpose of the hearings was to hear citizen comments on the petitions, as required by state statute to make written recommendations prior to the annual town meeting, said Pamela Kueber, chairperson of the Lenox Planning Board.

After each petitioner presented opening statements about their proposals, members of the board ask questions and then invite the public to comment.

And since Lenox’s annual town meeting is slated for Thursday, May 2, time is of the essence, said board member Kathleen McNulty Vaughan.

First up was petitioner Dick DeFazio, who gathered 36 signatures from residents requesting to prohibit the operation of all marijuana cultivators, craft cooperatives, manufacturers, retailers, microbusinesses, research facilities, testing laboratories, transporters and any other type of licensed marijuana-related businesses.

DeFazio opted to create this bylaw after expressing concerns during the comment period of a March public hearing on the board’s proposed zoning bylaw on adult-use recreational marijuana enterprises.

Last November, when the board presented the bylaw for adult-use recreational marijuana businesses at town meeting, it did not receive support from two-thirds of registered voters in attendance, said Kueber. Because of this, voters approved an extension for a moratorium on adult-use recreational marijuana commerce through June 30.

Had the moratorium not been extended, retail marijuana establishments will default to similar uses within areas where retail activity is already permitted. Similarly, cultivation and processing business would default to the uses established in commercial and industrial zones.

“It was missed by between five and eight votes,” said Kueber.

So while the board is bringing its own zoning bylaw forward to zone recreational marijuana enterprises, which will again require a two-thirds vote to pass, residents will also vote on whether to prohibit the industry from coming into town altogether.

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