Middlebury selectboard seeks input on marijuana

MIDDLEBURY — The state Legislature this winter is likely to again debate the question of whether to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, and the Middlebury selectboard wants to know how local residents feel about that issue.
To that end, the selectboard has prepared a survey — available on-line and through the town offices — on the issue of marijuana legalization.
And here’s some added context: The Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) has tentatively mapped out plans to lobby against marijuana legalization during the upcoming 2018 legislative session. Rather than simply endorsing the VLCT’s opposition stance — as it did last year — the selectboard is seeking public opinion prior to taking its own position. This is consistent with a message that town meeting voters sent to selectboard members in March that they shouldn’t endorse the VLCT’s lobbying position regarding marijuana without first soliciting public input.
Local attorney Dave Silberman, a supporter of marijuana legalization, reminded the board to solicit that feedback in an Aug. 2 letter.
“I urge you to instruct (Town Manager Kathleen) Ramsey to oppose including the anti-legalization provision in the VLCT 2018 legislative policy, and vote against that policy unless it remains neutral on the issue,” Silberman wrote.
Selectwoman Laura Asermily presented a draft survey to her colleagues on Aug. 22.
The questions — which for the most part are to be answered either “yes,” “no,” or “undecided,” include:
•  Do you support, or oppose, legalizing marijuana for adult use in Vermont.
•  Regardless of your views on legalization, should Middlebury’s selectboard support the VLCT’s efforts to lobby the governor and Legislature against legalization on the town’s behalf?
•  Should the town of Middlebury allow marijuana businesses to open in appropriate areas of town (e.g., at least 1,000 feet from church/school/day care, zones commercial), or totally ban them?
The selectboard on Aug. 22 unanimously endorsed the survey, with a few tweaks. For example, the survey includes space for respondents to elaborate on position on marijuana, if they’d like.
Middlebury’s marijuana survey can be found on-line at surveymonkey.com/r/T38M8BP. The survey will close on Friday, Sept. 8.
Selectboard members said they will use the findings to inform their final position on the marijuana legalization question. In other words, they won’t necessarily embrace the majority position produced by the survey results.
“We have to decide what is the public good,” Selectman Victor Nuovo said.
“I think we all have a responsibility to do our homework, too,” selectboard Chairman Brian Carpenter added.
Silberman was pleased with the survey.
“I’m glad the selectboard is reaching out to the public, as polls consistently show Vermonters support cannabis legalization by wide margins,” he said. “I’m particularly appreciative of the efforts of Laura Asermily, who took the lead on crafting this survey with stakeholder input on all sides. I encourage everyone to take 90 seconds to complete the survey and let the selectboard know what they think.”
In other recent action, the Middlebury selectboard:
•  Appointed seven people to the newly minted Middlebury Conservation Commission. The committee’s members include Molly Anderson, Monica Pryzperhart, Kemi Fuentes-George, Andrew L’Roe, Jeff Howarth, Amy Sheldon and Judy Wiger-Grohs. Middlebury Parks & Recreation Department Director Terri Arnold will service as the town’s representative to the panel, which among other things will inventory the town’s natural resources and provide input on the potential impacts of future development on the community’s waterways, wetlands and other environmental assets.
•  Received an overview of the potential Ilsley Library renovation and expansion project from longtime Trustee John Freidin. As recently reported in the Addison Independent, library trustees recently commissioned a study that recommends removing the Ilsley’s two most recent additions and erecting a new, 14,000-square-foot structure onto the back of the original 1924 building. The addition and related renovations would give the library a net gain of 6,600 square feet and produce “a more modern, spacious and user-friendly facility,” according to gbA Architecture & Planning, which authored the study.
The very rough project price tag has been placed at around $9.6 million, of which library officials hope to be able to raise around 60 percent. Trustees have asked a consultant to determine just how much of the project price could be generated locally.
Officials stressed the project could be two or three years into the future.
Library trustees have scheduled a public meeting for Wednesday, Sept. 13, to further explain the potential project and hear community feedback. The meeting will be held in the Ilsley Library’s community room.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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