|By Chris Maza|
EAST LONGMEADOW Residents in East Longmeadow will be asked to vote as to whether massage therapy businesses should be allowed to operate in commercial buildings.
"Massage therapy is currently only allowed in the business and industrial districts," Planning Director Robyn Macdonald said. "It is not allowed in the commercial district because massage therapy is considered a personal service. This [warrant] article would allow their operation in the commercial district."
The proposed bylaw amendment, which was included in the warrant for the May 20 Annual Town Meeting as a citizen's petition, addresses an issue that was brought to light by Virginia Levine, a local massage therapist who owns Be Here Now Therapeutic Massage, located at 280 North Main St.
The location in question is owned by CDB Realty LLC, which is operated Christopher Buendo, a co-publisher of Reminder Publications. Because Levine is not an East Longmeadow resident, Buendo sponsored the citizen's petition.
Levine was sent a letter from the Planning Board early this year that stated her business was located in a district in which massage therapy was not an accepted use, despite the fact she was granted a waiver of site plan in 2010.
The Planning Board became aware of their error when Levine applied for a special permit as required through the bylaw passed at the Annual Town Meeting on May 21, 2012. The bylaw was designed to cease illegal activity at massage parlors, such as the Korean Massage Therapy Center, which was located at 611 North Main St. until its special permit application was denied in March. Korean Massage was allegedly involved in nefarious activities, including illegal immigration and prostitution, and was subject to multiple police stings.
Residents will also be asked to vote on a bylaw amendment that would temporarily designate medical marijuana treatment centers as an illegal use in any district.
The temporary moratorium would allow town officials time to review and implement state guidelines.
The medical marijuana law took effect on Jan. 1 after Massachusetts' voters approved Question 3 on the November 2012 ballot. However, the regulations governing medical marijuana dispensaries have yet to be approved.
The Department of Public Health (DPH) Medical Marijuana Working Group submitted draft regulations to the Public Health Council on April 10 and hosted several public hearings during a public comment period that expired on April 20. The Public Health Council, as of press time, had not ratified the regulations; the DPH was scheduled to go before the council for approval on May 8.
The warrant also contains a number of other zoning bylaw amendment proposals, but Macdonald said those would not have any major effects on the town.
"These were changes that were suggested by the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee and proposed by the Planning Board," she said. "The majority of them are clarifications to ambiguous wordings in the bylaw rather than real changes."
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