By Don Nelson

The Winthrop Town Council will hear an appeal of town planner Rocklynn Culp’s decision to prohibit the retail sale of marijuana in the Horizon Flats area.

The appeal will be heard at the council’s April 16 meeting. As a result, a public hearing on the broader issue of retail marijuana sales within the town has been postponed.

Austin Lott, who is seeking to operate a retail marijuana outlet at a Horizon Flats location, appealed Culp’s determination that the area’s current light industrial zoning doesn’t permit such a retail use. Culp, who is also the town’s zoning administrator, said in a letter to Lott that she decided his proposed operation is “most closely akin to liquor stores,” and therefore not an allowable use.

In his appeal, Lott argues that his operation should be permitted based on existing allowed uses, which include some “auxiliary” retail sales operations. Lott contends that Culp’s decision is based on “an overly narrow view of the issue and a view that is inconsistent with at least one separate but closely related determination already made by the Winthrop Planning Department.”

Lott was referring to the town’s approval of an application to grow marijuana in the Horizon Flats area, because the zoning allows some agricultural uses.

“I contend that marijuana retail should subsequently be viewed as an ‘Agricultural Market,’ which is also an approved use … a marijuana retail shop clearly fits the description of an agricultural market.”

Lott also noted while liquor stores would not be allowed under current zoning, restaurants, bars, cafes and taverns — all of which might sell alcohol — are permitted.

“Intoxicating products are allowed to be sold on Horizon Flats,” Lott said in his appeal. “So to disallow marijuana retail on the grounds that the products sold are intoxicating is an unfair argument and also illogical given that a bar is an allowed use.”

It will be up to the council to endorse or reverse Culp’s findings. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Hen House room at the Winthrop Barn. Testimony will be limited to the specific details of Lott’s appeal. Written comments can be submitted at Town Hall until 4 p.m. on April 16.