Medical marijuana inches closer, gambling shut out in Kennett

By Eliza Mohler, Staff Writer, The Times

Chief of Police Lydell Nolt shows a sample of new body armor recently purchased for the Kennett Township police department. Nolt said the vests could withstand high-powered rifle fire

KENNETT  – As Pennsylvania gets ready to go to pot – medical marijuana, that is – the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors are preparing for proposals from licensed dispensaries that will be allowed to sell it.

At last Wednesday night’s meeting, the board voted 2-to-1 in favor of establishing a setback of 250 feet for dispensary locations in the township as part of its pending medical marijuana ordinance. Dispensaries would only be permitted in the light industrial and commercial districts in the township and in the Borough of Kennett Square.

According to Township Manager Lisa Moore, solicitor David Sanders recommended that an ordinance be established in anticipation of the pending change in Pennsylvania regulations that will allow the production and sale of medical marijuana in the Commonwealth. Moore asked the board if they wanted to keep the setback length for dispensaries to a distance of 1,000 feet from nearby properties, which is the current requirement for medical marijuana growers, or if they wanted to change it to a different distance.

Chairman Scudder Stevens asked and Supervisor Richard Leff asked Chief of Police Lydell Nolt what he knew about regulations pertaining to setbacks for growers and dispensaries, especially those around areas where children are likely to be nearby, such as schools and day care centers. Nolt said he has more concerns about dispensaries than grow facilities.

“The inherent safety risk, in my opinion, is still there,” he said. “The issue right now is that we don’t have any baseline to start of off.”

Leff asked if the setback distance for dispensaries was changed to 250 feet, would more parcels be available, and Moore replied that between 10 and 12 additional parcels would be eligible to be potential dispensary sites.

“We’re putting this ordinance in place so that we have regulations in place that we can live with, but also be fair,” Moore said. Supervisor Whitney Hoffman mentioned the importance of balancing safety and access to medical marijuana products for those who need it, such as cancer patients.

Stevens and Hoffman voted in favor of the change to the proposed ordinance, and Leff voted against it. Moore will advertise the draft of the ordinance for discussion at a future meeting.

The board then discussed Governor Tom Wolf’s recent approval of House Bill 271, which allows for four new licensed gaming facilities in Pennsylvania.

“Local municipalities have the option to opt out of permitting gaming facilities by December 31, 2017,” Moore said, noting that the township can opt back in at a later date if it chooses.  “This would be at a different level than the Valley Forge Casino,” she added. “It’s a mini casino.”

Leff moved that the Township opt out of allowing gambling facilities. “This is not your average local resolution,” Stevens said. “It seems to me that there could be some economic benefit to the township to have one of these facilities, but I don’t know, so I’m comfortable in supporting the opt out,” he said. “Opting out now gives us time to consider the important questions that are involved.”

“It gives us the most flexibility moving forward,” Leff noted. Resident Margaret Fortis said she didn’t see why a casino would be needed in the township, and Stevens agreed with her. The board voted unanimously in favor of opting out.

In other news, the board voted to approve Liz Curtis Swain’s request to join the Kennett Area Park Authority Board as Kennett Township’s representative.  “Thank you for volunteering, we’re excited to have you here,” Stevens said to Swain, who was in attendance.

Nolt thanked the board for supporting the purchase of special vests for the police department, which are worn in addition to their standard bullet-proof vests. The new vest helps protect the wearer from high-velocity bullets and projectiles. “We hope you’ll never have to use them, but we’re glad you have them,” Hoffman said. Stevens said the demonstration he saw of how the vest works gave him a greater appreciation for what police officers do.

Nolt also reported that 46 pounds of prescription medication were collected during the township police department’s drug takeback event on Saturday, October 28. He added that residents can bring prescription drugs to the department for proper disposal at any time.

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