BETHEL — Bethel Planning Board members Wednesday began consideration of an application by Gabe Stoppini to build a medical marijuana facility on his property on the East Bethel Road.
Stoppini wants to build a new processing facility and eventually plans to have employees work in the building. One of the reasons he is doing this is to prevent further problems with neighbors. He is currently growing his plants from a greenhouse and moving them to his basement, which has caused complaints from neighbors who say the smell is overwhelming on certain days.
“It (the smell) was getting so bad I can’t go out in my backyard,” neighbor Clyde Demaio said. He has lived on the East Bethel Road for three years.
Resident Jarrod Crockett said he has smelled the plants as well, and brought up the issue of exposing the smell to children living in the area.
“I don’t understand why they want to keep it so far away from the schools, but when it comes to our kids it doesn’t matter,” Demaio added.
Stoppini said he has been growing marijuana plants in his greenhouse for the past year.
He said if the new building site is approved, he will not have to transport his plants nearly as much. He also says the building is going to be much more spacious for his business.
“The building would basically put my business in a more professional aspect, it would get it out of the privacy of my own home,” Stoppini said. “Basically the building becomes a metal structure that would be all insulated and fire retardant.”
Stoppini says if his building site is approved he plans to start the process immediately. He also said the moving process would only occur once every two months.
Even if the building is approved, Demaio said he is still concerned other issues may arise. Exterior lighting, generator use, sprinkler use and a possible septic system were all topics he brought up, with exterior lighting generating the most attention, because of the possible brightness it could produce.
Stoppini assured the Planning Board and attendees he already has many appliances, including air conditioners and lighting.
Mike Everett, who also resides on the East Bethel Road, operates a medical marijuana facility similar in size to the one Stoppini is proposing to the Planning Board.
The facility has been working for two years. Everett says he has had issues with odor in the past, but has used charcoal filters to mitigate the smell, which is now no longer an issue.
He said he has multiple people who have come on his site and said they cannot smell any marijuana, which in large part is due to the charcoal filter. Everett said he worked in a facility in Denver before moving to Maine.
“I’ve worked with Gabe and he knows he’s got to clean up the smell,” Everett said. “He’s doing the right thing by building the new building.”
Everett said he is also working with Stoppini in trying to get carbon filters in his greenhouse.
Planning Board member Mike Charron proposed a site walk of Everett’s facility specifically for abutters. Everett agreed, as long as it was town-sanctioned for informational purposes only. Charron said he believed the walk could be a breakthrough in the ongoing issue.
“I think the mitigation issue here for odor would be seriously addressed if we could get some noses near you (Everett’s operation),” Charron said.
The board eventually voted to conduct two site walks of Everett’s and Stoppini’s growing sites. The walks were scheduled to take place this past Tuesday.