SPRINGFIELD — After being told of a lawsuit filed Friday by the marijuana company Insa, City Council President Justin Hurst said he stands by his vote blocking its proposed retail store.
Hurst also said he questions the company’s ties to the administration of Mayor Domenic Sarno.
“I did not think they had a great location for a dispensary in the opening round,” Hurst said of Insa, which proposed a shop in the former Luxe Burger Bar at at 1200 West Columbus Ave.
“In addition, I have a number of questions that still need to be answered with respect to how this location was obtained by Insa and their connection with the administration,” Hurst said.
The Easthampton company, which already operates medical marijuana dispensaries in Springfield and Easthampton, sued the city Friday seeking to overturn the council’s denial of a special use permit for Insa’s planed recreational marijuana shop.
The Sept. 24 vote was 8-3 in favor of the Insa permit, but nine votes — two-thirds of the 13-member council — were needed for passage.
Councilors voting against the Insa permit were Orlando Ramos, Adam Gomez and Hurst. Councilors E. Henry Twiggs and Michael Fenton were absent. Fenton has said he would abstain from any marijuana vote because of a potential conflict of interest. His law firm does business with a marijuana company.
Insa has a lease for the building from NE Enterprises LLC, a company that is, according to the Massachusetts secretary of state’s office, managed by attorney and former City Councilor Raipher D. Pellegrino.
The Springfield Redevelopment Authority sold the building in 2012.
The land under the building is owned by the Springfield Riverfront Development Corp., the condominium operator that includes the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and its neighbors, according to papers on file at the Hampden County Registry of Deeds.
Hurst on Friday reiterated his concern that the Columbus Avenue site is too convenient to the highway yet isolated from other businesses. Customers would only drive to Insa and would not patronize other businesses, he said.
“It will have very little impact when it comes to revitalizing downtown,” Hurst said.
He also said it is a conflict of interest that the Bulkley Richardson law firm representing Insa in its lawsuit also represents the city, including in a long-running case involving special education students that the city won this summer. The firm represented the School Committee in that case.
Attorney Daniel J. Finnegan, one of the Bulkley Richardson attorneys representing Insa, said he had no involvement in the school case and there is no conflict of interest that he is aware of.
Hurst added that the Insa hearing was the only time in his 10 months as council president that he “stepped down” and allowed the vice president to take charge of the meeting so he could participate in the debate.