BRATTLEBORO — While state law prohibits the sale of cannabis within 500 feet of a school property, the town lacks authority to expand buffer zones further for cannabis establishments.
The Brattleboro Planning Commission was told Monday night that the town has no authority to go beyond its own general zoning powers to create larger buffer zones. They also learned there are no mandated buffer zones for facilities such as a child care centers, or areas where youth might congregate, such as the Boys and Girls Club on Flat Street or Memorial Park.
“Brattleboro voted to opt-in to retail sales, so we cannot prohibit retail cannabis establishments through zoning,” said Sue Fillion, the town’s planning director.
According to Act 164, which the Legislature approved in 2020 to allow adult recreational use of cannabis products, indoor and outdoor cultivation, wholesale establishments, processing, manufacturing, and testing and research are allowable in certain zoning districts and must be treated like any other business.
“If it’s a permitted use, the use itself really isn’t up for debate,” said Fillion. “The statute also provides the ability to establish a local cannabis control board for licensing. That’s not something that has been decided for Brattleboro yet. That will be a Select Board decision.”
However, unlike liquor licenses — which the Select Board approves as the Liquor Commission — there is no municipal authority to limit the number of retail cannabis establishments, said Fillion.
The Brattleboro Development Review Board has already approved a site plan for a grow facility at the Vermont Agricultural Business Education Center and will review another application on May 18 for a basement grow room at 73 Main St.
There are some local regulations that will apply to grow facilities, noted Fillion, and that includes odor control.
“Just like a restaurant, an exhaust can have an impact on neighboring properties,” she said.
The state is currently accepting applications for integrated licenses for those who will be cultivating, wholesaling, manufacturing, testing and retailing cannabis.
According to Act 164, retail sales can begin on Oct. 1 through licensed shops.
“Conceivably, we could see a retail cannabis business on Oct. 1 if everything was in line,” said Fillion.
Like alcohol, public consumption of cannabis products is not allowed. But unlike alcohol, cannabis consumption won’t be allowed in stores or other shops.
“There won’t be bars for serving cannabis,” said Fillion. “They’re not allowed anywhere in the state this time.”
Fillion said there are still some details of Act 164 that aren’t quite clear. The Vermont League of Cities and Towns is hosting an informational session this month, during which she hopes some of those questions might be answered.
According to town zoning, retail establishments are permitted in the urban center, village center, service center, neighborhood center and mixed use districts. They are also allowed in the rural business district.
Conditional use permits can be granted by the DRB for stores in the residential neighborhood, waterfront and industrial districts.
While cannabis can be cultivated in any zoning district in the town, greenhouses are permitted only in the service center, neighborhood center and rural business districts.