BETHEL — At Monday’s meeting, Bethel resident Sharon Risley spoke to the board regarding a marijuana odor issue in her neighborhood. Risley resides on Highland Ave in Bethel (located off Bird Hill Road) and she said the smell has caused multiple disruptions in her daily life.
“The odors are coming on to my property. I cannot use my deck or screened in porch,” Risley said. “The smell has also caused me to have headaches and stomach aches.”
Risley was unsure exactly why the smell was so pungent, but figured it was related to a mix of consumption, harvesting and growing of the plant.
Risley said the aroma was at its worst in late summer/early fall, before going away completely in mid-October.
She asked town officials possible ways they could help mitigate the odor. Code Enforcement Officer Toby Walker said he drove by the property once but did not see anything that caught his attention.
“Anything he is currently doing on his property is not regulated by the town,” Walker said. “It does not full under purview of site plan review or anything else under our marijuana ordinances.”
Select Woman Lori Swain said as long as the neighbor is following all ordinances he has a right to grow marijuana.
A covenant in the private subdivision states that there should be one housing unit on each lot for residential purposes only.
“If he is growing more plants than what the state statute allows that it becomes a commercial endeavor, and that is illegal,” Risley said.
Walker said covenants are enforced by the homeowners association, not the town.
Selectman Pete Southam asked if the issue had been addressed by the homeowners association.
Risley, who is part of the HOA, said that she did not discuss the matter with the other HOA members because she feels the issue is private and pertains to only a private resident.
Bethel does not have any ordinances for odors.
Southam said an ordinance could be drafted for odors and then voted on at a town meeting, but suggested that Risley start by discussing the issue with the HOA.
“I think it would be a faster approach,” Southam said.
Swain asked if law enforcement had been contacted about the smell. Risley said she had not spoken to law enforcement, but talked with State Representative Fran Head to get her advice. Head told Risley to start by reaching out to the selectboard to get possible direction on how to counter the issue.
Southam said Risley could come up with an ordinance, go through the petition process and the bring it to the town for a vote. Southam thought this might be the best option for Risley.
In other business, Selectmen approved appointing resident Sarah Tucker to the Recreation Board. The vote was 4-0 with Select Woman Michele Varuolo Cole abstaining from the vote.
While discussing the appointment, Cole suggested that the board table discussion for a later meeting, saying people should have more time to apply for a opening on a committee/board before any decisions are made. She said the town could begin reviewing applications in December and then make appointments come January.
Town Manager Loretta Powers said there are currently two openings on the planning board. Year-end openings on all town committees/boards have not been advertised yet, according to Powers.
Cole’s motion to table the appointment failed.
Powers briefly touched on the free table at the Bethel transfer station after people asked about possibly reopening it. Selectmen agreed to keep the free table closed for the time being. Cole thought that Tri-Town Committee could focus on the general safety of the free table sometime in the future.
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