Some neighbors say recreational marijuana not right for residential area
WESTPORT — Resident Michael Fernandes has two small children and can’t imagine waiting for a school bus on Main Road — with a recreational marijuana facility in plain view.
These were some of the concerns raised on Monday when a New Bedford-based company pitched interest to selectmen for a community host agreement for a recreational marijuana facility at 1104 Main Road.
Selectmen told Nicholas Gomes, the chief legal officer of Tree Beard Inc., that it wants more information and public input first. Neighbors, meanwhile, noted that there are residences with children in that area — and a recreational marijuana site just doesn’t fit in.
In February, Tree Beard Inc, doing business as Old Soul Gardens, issued plans to the Planning Board to tear down a vacant, boarded-up home and replace it with a 15,000 to 20,000 square foot facility. The location, within the quaint Central Village, is directly across from Westport Bait & Tackle and a mile south of Town Hall. This Main Road site also encompassed just over 3 acres.
Gomes told selectmen that the plan was for a manufacturing and cultivation plant, with delivery service and a potential retail component. Gomes said that the company, if necessary, would be willing to forego the retail store, which would limit traffic. He noted that building plans would call for a plain, windowless, building that would resemble a medical or office structure. Gomes said the company insignia contains the letters “O,S,G,” with no marijuana leaves or other pot symbols.
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Gomes mentioned that a community host agreement is just the first step. The company would plan a community outreach meeting in the summer, and hope to begin business around late summer of next year.
The site is also a contaminated brownfield site, and the company, by law, would have to work with state Department of Environmental Protection officials toward cleanup.
Gomes also noted that the company would institute the maximum amount of revenue sharing, capped at 3 percent, and would try to hire qualified locals first.
Neighbors expressed concerns about traffic and potential loitering.
“I am a police officer in town and can’t tell you how many people we are stopping who are under the influence of marijauna,” said resident Kyle Fernandes.
He and others mentioned that people who visit pot stores are sometimes under the influence, which is not an ideal scenario for a neighborhood with small children.
Gomes stressed that safeguards would be in place and emphasized that the retail store could be nixed if there are public concerns.
Even with the only a delivery and manufacturing service operating there, Selectman Steven Ouellette was not convinced that the traffic would be minimal.
“With all due respect sir, you’re giving your opinion. I want the town’s opinion,” Ouellette said, and later added that officials such as Town Planner James Hartnett and zoning authorities should weigh in first.
Selectmen Chairwoman Shana Shufelt agreed and directed Gomes to return with more information.
Although Gomes cited the expedited permitting process the state has unveiled, he still would be willing to work with other town authorities and have a community meeting before an agreement is approved.
Gomes also said if that location — 1104 Main Road — is not a viable option, Old Soul Gardens could also look for another place in town.
Some residents noted that Route 6 might be a better location. In late 2018, two host agreements were issued there. Only Coastal Healing is moving forward with a medical marijuana facility. However, its lawyer Brian Corey has noted the company’s interest in selling to retail clients as well.