The Newport City Council voted 6-0 on June 24 to place a six-month moratorium on any retail use regarding the sale of marijuana in order to study pending zoning ordinances to better regulate the industry and “properly plan for such uses.”
“I think it’s important to be prepared for when the state does something about this,” said Councilor Lynn Ceglie, who read the ordinance and made an amendment to refer the matter to the Planning Board.
Councilor Angela McCalla suggested holding a public workshop to educate the community on uses and store possibilities.
Councilor Justin McLaughlin said the city could decide it does not want marijuana retail shops. “That might be the right answer,” he said. In other matters: n For the second time since April 22, the council voted to extend City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr.’s executive powers for 30 days, this time set to expire on July 24, with the condition that the council could withdraw such power at any time.
Nicholson said that although the city is no longer in a state of emergency, it is still “walking on eggs.” City Solicitor Christopher Behan said it would be “prudent” that Nicholson retain emergency authority so he has the ability to act quickly if needed. n Patricia Reynolds, director of Economic Development and Planning, provided an update on the timetable to finish the long-awaited North End urban plan. Reynolds reminded the council that the plan began in January 2020 with a 16-week timetable.
The first phase was for research, setting the stage for public engagement, which was completed within four weeks. In February, the dialogue phase started, gathering input from city residents, with numerous public forums. The last forum was scheduled for March 18, but meetings were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The City Council approved a 60-day extension from April 8 to gives June 8, with the hope of holding new public meetings. Instead, an online survey was posted to gather data through May 18, followed by a mailing for those without computer access. Work resumed in June, Reynolds said.
The final draft is nearing completion, she said. It will be submitted to the Planning Board by July 8, followed by at least one public hearing, a planning review and another recommendation to the City Council.
She said her department is also awaiting a completed draft on form-based code, a controversial new zoning element being studied. Form-based code is a land development regulation that fosters results by using physical form, rather than separation of uses, as the organizing principle. A form-based code is a regulation adopted into city, town or county law, and offers an alternative to conventional zoning regulations.
“Is there an opportunity … to hold some sort of meeting for folks to understand it a little bit more?” McCalla asked. Reynolds said there would be opportunities for public comment.
There must be two public hearings before the plan is submitted to the council.
“I will promise we will work as quickly as possible to get it approved [with as much public input as necessary],” Reynolds said Nicholson provided a COVID-19 update. He said more than 1,600 masks were handed out along the Thames Street corridor on the weekend of June 20-21, along with educational materials and warnings. “The process going forward is to increase volunteer experiences in encounters with individuals who are problematic,” he said. “Obviously, we are concerned about the lax use of masks.” The council unanimously approved a drive-in showing of a film by NewportFilm, beginning at 6:30 p.m., on July 9 at Easton’s Beach.