Thorndike residents decided not to place a moratorium on licensing marijuana businesses, which they approved at town meeting in August 2020. In addition, they agreed to release funds to seek two salt and sand shed sketches from an engineering firm to be presented at a future date.

By a vote of 34-50, nearly 100 residents in attendance at a special town meeting Jan. 16 affirmed their decision to opt into state marijuana legislation.

Selectmen said they had been too busy organizing proposals for a new sand and salt shed to focus on developing a marijuana ordinance. They thought that if they did not sign and send in the finalizing paperwork after the town meeting vote, the town was not opted in and they would have time to develop an ordinance.

They were made aware of their misunderstanding when Nova Farms sought signatures from the town for its state permits to open a marijuana growing operation in Thorndike.

According to state law, the town is opted in whether or not the selectmen submitted the paperwork after the vote. One resident accused them of not doing their job and trying to block what the majority of Thorndike residents had supported at the annual meeting.

Former Selectman Josh Ard said after the town opted into the legislation, the code enforcement officer and Planning Board expressed apprehension about developing and enacting a town-specific marijuana ordinance.

Selectman Jeff Trafton said the selectmen proposed the moratorium seeking time to develop a town ordinance, but have been too busy focusing on developing a plan to build a salt and sand shed. The state’s marijuana legislation is vast and always changing, Selectman Doreen Berry said, and the board needed time to research it before bringing a proposed marijuana ordinance to residents.

One resident said she supported the idea of a six-month moratorium to give the selectmen time to research and develop a marijuana ordinance. Another resident said she was unsure about letting the selectmen have the power to extend the moratorium another six months if they are not putting in a reasonable effort to develop an ordinance.

Nova Farms Director of Cultivation Dennis Ebert said he is glad the town voted the moratorium down, saving the Massachusetts-based company from having to take potential legal action against the town to seek an exemption from the moratorium.

Selectmen still intend to develop a marijuana ordinance and hope to enact a fee scale for permits, Berry said. She said selectmen will respect the will of the people and continue to represent them.

In other business, residents agreed to release $38,000 so selectmen can hire A.E. Hodsdon Consulting Engineers from Waterville to propose two sketches, one prefabricated and one laminate framing, for the salt and sand shed. The company was also used to design the fire department building and Town Office building.

One resident suggested that the town save money by going through a contractor, which would supply an engineer to develop a design, instead of using an engineer first then finding a contractor to build the design. Another resident suggested having a 10-year-old sketch the design and save the town $38,000, stating that all it needs is an architect to approve it.

Selectmen hope to offer two designs to residents. One design would be sturdier and more expensive, the other would be less sturdy and cheaper. Selectman Bob Carter said the town will be investing a significant amount of money, so he wants to make sure residents are making an educated decision about the quality and longevity of the building type.

Ard said previous selectmen already acquired a quote from one company about an economically priced pre-engineered structure, so it would make sense to only seek one design instead of two.

At present, there is a slab at the new salt and sand shed location off Route 139, but it is not sturdy enough to hold a structure, selectmen said, and is only useful to temporarily hold sand and salt until a structure can be built.

The issue has plagued the town for over 30 years and nothing was being done about it until the state intervened.

It discovered that salt was leaking into a river at the previous salt and sand shed location on Unity Road in July 2016 and issued the town several warnings. It was to issue a fine in fall 2020 if a salt and sand structure was not built in compliance with state regulations, but the state agreed to extend the deadline to fall 2021 because of the coronavirus.

The initial bid is $26,300, but the selectmen asked for the whole $38,000 in the town's sand and salt shed reserve so they would not have to schedule another town meeting during the coronavirus pandemic if unexpected expenses crop up, they said.

Residents also approved $101,000 to pave Reynolds Road before adjourning the public meeting.