Ridgefield sets town meeting to vote on ordinance banning marijuana sales locally

RIDGEFIELD — Opting to potentially get an ordinance on the books prohibiting the sale of recreational marijuana in town, the Board of Selectmen have voted unanimously to move forward with a town meeting in September.

The board is proposing a ban on businesses involved with recreational marijuana sales, citing that the majority of Ridgefield residents support a prohibition following the state decision to legalize it last year.

Connecticut gave each of its municipalities the power to draw up its own local plan to either allow or disallow prospective businesses, with the options of having it addressed as either a land-use issue or one involving a town ordinance.

In April, the Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 to implement an ordinance, rather than go to a referendum ballot vote, but the matter must be approved through a town meeting.

“This was a tough decision,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said during Wednesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting. “It wasn't a unanimous decision.”

He and others noted that if they felt strongly enough, those who wanted to see the businesses allowed in town could ultimately petition the town to have the ordinance overturned.

Last year the Board of Selectmen handed the issue over to the Planning and Zoning Commission to decide. That body then instituted a one-year moratorium on applications for several kinds of cannabis establishments. That moratorium is due to expire on Sept. 24.

Three informational meetings with limited turnout were subsequently held, at which the public was encouraged to weigh in on the issue.

While it was expected to enact a zoning regulation supporting a ban, the Planning and Zoning Commission ultimately passed the matter back to the town's legal advisers and the Board of Selectmen, tabling it until the selectmen should finalize its decision.

“They tabled it to wait for counsel opinion,” Marconi said.

Marconi said he was “concerned” that Planning and Zoning didn't act because he believes the majority of residents want to ban cannabis establishments.

“That's why we're going to move forward with this ordinance,” he said.

In an effort to allow the largest number of people to be involved — yet still address the matter prior to the expiration of the moratorium on Sept. 24 — the board voted unanimously to hold two public hearings on July 13 and Aug. 17. The town meeting is scheduled for Sept. 7.

“I think this is important enough that we give everyone an ample opportunity,” Selectman Bob Hebert said.

“This was a tough decision,” he added. “It wasn't a unanimous decision. We spent a long time talking about it.”

Marconi concurred.

“I think we can safely say that there are people on both sides of the question,” he said.