Coming before the Mattapoisett Planning Board on March 18 was David McIntire and Attorney Phil Silverman with a business proposal for a marijuana cultivation facility in the industrial zone off North Street – a business with the potential to provide 30 new jobs and from $150,000 to $225,000 annually for the town.
Town Administrator Michael Gagne opened the 45-minute informal discussion on the potential of this business, saying, “I spoke to David [McIntire] about the prospect for marijuana manufacturing as permitted by the zoning bylaw and found it interesting,” Gagne said he thought the proposal deserved public airing and that it was a novel idea for filling the town’s coffers with money from a potential Host Community Agreement – money that could be used for capital improvements.
The cannabis cultivated inside the 25,000 square-foot “heavy-duty industrial operation,” as Silverman described it, would be harvested and the oils extracted from the plants to make creams, salves, and edible items such as brownies. While there would be no on-site retail sales to either medical or recreational marijuana users, wholesale distribution was part of the plan – about $15 million is wholesale distribution sales – but not exclusively to medical dispensaries, which is where the sticking point stood.
The current local bylaw that has been in place since January 2019 does not allow the sale of marijuana for recreational use in Mattapoisett.
“One of the things we have to look at is the bylaw,” said Gagne. “It prohibits any retail sales. … The [business] proposal does include a clause for wholesale sales.”
According to Gagne, the town’s bylaw would have to be modified so that wholesale activities could take place.
For the Planning Board, its members concurred that the bylaw, as it stands, would be a sticking point, and that any modifications to the bylaw would have to go through the public hearing process and then on to Town Meeting for approval. However, it was unclear who would ultimately go before Town Meeting with a bylaw amendment article – the property owner, the Board of Selectmen, or the Planning Board.
Silverman entertained several questions regarding site security, security in transporting the finished product, employee safety while processing the plants, water consumption and sewer outflow, frequency of inspections, and hours of operation, to which he deftly responded.
Silverman explained how such cultivation facilities handle security issues saying, “These places are more secure then a bank.” He said that employees would undergo thorough background checks, including CORI checks. He also described how the plants themselves are heavily secured from seed to flower, including receiving barcodes and daily weigh-ins to ensure nothing is being stolen.
The building would be thoroughly covered with security cameras and at all entrances and exits, Silverman said, and secured by an alarm system, on-site security personnel, and a vault to store finished products. He said the facility operators would work closely with local law enforcement.
Selectman Paul Silva asked Silverman if a Community Host Agreement could be for more than five years, and Silverman explained that currently only five-year plans are allowed in Massachusetts. That prompted Silva to wonder how a municipality could offset capital projects requiring large financial commitments with Community Impact Fees if there were no guarantees of funding beyond the five years.
“Citizens may need to pick up the bond,” said Silva.
Silverman suggested that budget planning that would be paid for with Community Host Agreement fees should not go beyond that five-year agreement.
Some of the board’s other questions, though, were beyond Silverman’s technical expertise, he conceded, but he promised that “good answers” would be provided for all questions as the review process moved forward.
In other business, Scott Snow’s request to continue his Form C Definitive Subdivision Plan was granted for April 1. Snow, however, was denied an extension until May 15 of the original filing.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for April 1 at 7:00 pm in the Town Hall conference room.
Mattapoisett Planning Board
By Marilou Newell