Lawyer threatens litigation over restrictions on cannabis sales; Glocester council continues talks

Attorney Louis DeQuattro speaks before the council.

GLOCESTER – The Glocester Town Council made it clear at their meeting on Thursday, June 1 that they were open to suggestions and ideas about regulations pertaining to the establishment of cannabis sales in the town. They also made it clear that they were going to do what is best for the town, not for any individual establishment.

Lawyer Louis DeQuattro Jr., representing William Kapanakis, owner of Pinewood Pub, urged the council to follow state guidelines only. Kapanakis had previously questioned zoning regulations in the council’s initial draft of the cannabis ordinance for the town as being too restrictive. As the draft stands now, he would be unable to have cannabis sales in a building abutting his current restaurant location near The Learning Place pre-k school on Terry Lane in Chepachet.

DeQuattro quoted several previous court decisions, which he said would undermine the council’s more restrictive decisions, adding that the board did not have the power to exceed or include additions to state legislation.

“Don’t stick your neck out and get it chopped off,” he warned board members, adding that they would only have to go back and retract, “stuff,” later and, “wind up in a lawsuit.”

“At the risk of having another of our normal meetings highjacked again…by a certain location and already being threatened to sue us, I think we should look for some guidance,” replied Councilor Walter Steere, looking to Town Solicitor David Igliozzi.

Igliozzi suggested the council use discretion in their decisions, but said they should also create a policy they want, considering input from concerned residents. That included a letter from Bethany Brush Zimnoch, The Learning Place owner, who is opposed to cannabis sales close to the pre-school, suggesting it would have a negative effect on the school, and adding that, “Pre-school is just as valuable as K-12.” Current state regulations, limiting cannabis sales to no less than 500 feet property lines, only include K-12 schools.

Council Vice President Stephen Arnold agreed, stating that, “A registered pre-school is not far off from kindergarten,” and adding that he didn’t believe the town should, “secede our control to the state.”

Igliozzi explained that statutes drawn up by the town can be both in compliance with state regulations and under the control of the town. He said the town has a right to control locations and other items in connection with cannabis sales, just as they do with liquor sales. He further stated that distance decisions can also be determined by the town, adding that there is a big difference in using property lines if someone owns one acre and someone else owns 3 acres, depending on where buildings are located on those properties.

“You can take that into consideration,” he told the council.

“We have a balancing act here,” said Council President William Worthy. “The people of Glocester have voted to see retail cannabis sales here. We are trying to do our due diligence to try to facilitate that.”

Steere added that removing Land Trust property from the 500 foot limit imposed by the state and not considering it, “park” property would be a step closer to opening up more areas for possible sales, and alleviate some of the issues. He also added that more discussion on property lines and measurements to determine distances from one parcel to the next was in order, including possibly using buildings for distances instead of property lines.

The council agreed to continue discussions at their next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, June 15, adding that Councilor Jonathan Burlingame was not present, and had concerns about the cannabis draft and the issues that had been brought to the board.

“We’re creating a policy for the town,” said Arnold, “not for one specific advocate.”

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