BREWSTER — “So the race is on.” That’s how Brewster Town Planner Ryan Bennett described the new status of cannabis retailers hoping to do business in town.
Unfortunately for most of the participants, it’s virtually over before it begins. Here’s why:
The Haven Center, which originally was a non-profit organized to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Brewster, applied for a provisional medical license in 2015, which they got. After Question 4 was approved by state voters in 2016, legalizing recreational adult sales, the Haven Center applied for a recreational retail license.
Under town regulations Brewster can have one recreational outlet in addition to the approved medical dispensary. With the Haven Center having an option to add a recreational wing, Brewster could have two marijuana shops.
However, on Wednesday the Haven Center, owned by Chris Taloumis of Orleans, will be before the planning board for a site plan review with a proposal to operate a recreational retail shop only — they are not coming forward with a proposed medical dispensary at 4018 Main St., after all.
That was (bad) news for Brewster Botanicals, which was holding an outreach meeting on their proposed retail outlet at Lemon Tree Village Tuesday evening at the library, as they told the audience Brewster would allow two licenses in town.
“The only way the town can issue two licenses is if one applicant comes in under medical laws and converted to retail,” explained Town Administrator Peter Lombardi, who was at Tuesday’s meeting. “[Haven Center doesn’t] plan to do that. So effectively there is only one license in town to grant.”
“The Haven Center is not exercising their medical license,” Town Planner Ryan Bennett added. “They filed a detailed land division plan that froze the zoning (in December 2017 before town meeting adopted a zoning bylaw to regulate marijuana related businesses – so they don’t need a special permit), and they are applying for just a site plan review, which the planning board can’t deny, they can only condition. Their calculation or strategy is to apply just for retail and not go through the special permit process for medical.”
This means things will happen quicker for the Haven Center, which has all the state approvals they need. It also puts their four potential competitors in a difficult spot.
At their last outreach meeting in 2018 the Haven center was still proposing a joint medical/retail operation at the former For the Love of the Breed pet supply shop near the Orleans town line.
Brewster Botanicals has changed ownership since their July outreach meeting; this required the meeting Tuesday at the library.
Saumil Patel, whose family owns the Brewster Farms Market, is now the principal owner with other family members; Alay and Kinjal Patel along with family friend Chirag Patel. The original owner was a jeweler from Norton.
“We’re Brewster residents year round and we have 10 years in the retail business and we’re pursuing an additional business in town,” Saumil said. “We’re trying to provide customers with an affordable option of high quality consistently with great service and education about the products we will be selling. We want to be involved in the community and to support the town.”
The location has changed from the building hosting the Tabletop Shop in Lemon Tree Village to a yet-to-be-constructed edifice just behind it. That was at the request of the landlord and news to Lombardi, who said Brewster Botanicals would have to redo the staff review.
The building would be about 2,000 square feet including a basement. It would be a stand alone building to comply with zoning rules. The upstairs would be a waiting room as all sales are by appointment only with each customer allotted 15 minutes. That would eliminate long waiting lines and ease traffic. No on site consumption would be allowed. The Patels estimate 40 appointments per hour.
There was concern about traffic and parking from the audience. While Lemon Tree has over 100 spaces there are many shops located there. Chirag suggested they’d employ 10 to 15 people and would hire locally.
“At least 50 percent of the jobs will go to local residents,” he said. “You’d have to be a registered agent with the CCC (Cannibis Control Commission) to work at the establishment.”
They have not yet executed a host agreement with Brewster (the Haven Center has) and would pay a three percent impact fee and a three percent sales tax to the town.
Brewster Botanicals is still the process of applying for a license from the state;, they have to provide a management and operational profile, a letter of intent background information and a host community agreement. After that they would go for a special permit.
“This project is a year and a half away,” Chirag said.
The Haven Center’s change in strategy puts all the other would-be retailers in a difficult spot.
In addition to Brewster Botanicals, Nature’s Alternative had proposed a retail shop at the corner of Millstone Road and Route 124 and held an outreach meeting and signed a host community agreement. However the “project lead” departed over the summer to start Moth Earth, Lombardi said, and the town hasn’t heard much from Nature’s Alternative since.
“Mother Earth was another entity that expressed interest in Lemon Tree Village,” Lombardi told the select board Monday night. “They don’t have a host agreement.”
They submitted an incomplete staff review in September and have yet to hold an outreach meeting or apply for a special permit.
Paines Creek L.L.C. has proposed a retail shop at the Lukes Liquor plaza. They would need a special permit since that is not a stand alone building, as well as a variance from the zoning board of appeals.
By effectively freezing the zoning rules and leaving the medical dispensary aside, the Haven Center has advanced their approval process and eliminated a second retail license in town. It will be hard for any other business to nose them out.
The planning board will meet Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. and Brewster’s town counsel will be there to explain the recent legal maneuvers.