Marijuana site drawing plenty of discussion

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BETHEL — On Aug. 14 the Bethel Planning Board did site walks of two separate medical marijuana facilities on the East Bethel Rd.

The first walk took place at Mike Everett’s cultivation facility. Everett’s facility uses air exchange carbon filter system that, according to attendees, effectively eliminates any odor from his marijuana plants, making his facility a non-issue with residents.

The second walk happened at resident Gabe Stoppini’s property, where he hopes to build a facility for his own medical marijuana business. Planning board members, abutters and the code enforcement officer participated in the walks.

The walks were prompted by a Planning Board meeting that took place on Aug. 8. At the meeting there was discussion about whether or not Stoppini should be allowed to build a facility to perform most of his marijuana cultivation process.

Stoppini recently presented an application for a building site to the Planning Board. He is currently operating out three different places on his property; his house, garage and greenhouse. When Stoppini has to transfer his plants back and forth between the three locations, smells have arisen and caused odor issues with surrounding neighbors.

Stoppini says if the building site is approved, nearly all his work would be done in the new facility. The only time his plants would be moved is when they are transferred from the greenhouse to his new facility, he said. Stoppini would no longer use his house or garage for any of the process because would provide all the space needed.

If the new site is built, the transferring of plants would only happen once every two months, and would take two hours to move. This would be the only time smell is an issue, he said. Stoppini said an approval of the site would be huge for his business.

“It’s the only way to make sure we can continue to provide our patients with the meds they deserve, while also ensuring we can address any concerns of the community, and keep the business professional and secure,” Stoppini said.

Facility info

The cultivation facility would be licensed to propogate, cultivate, harvest, package and distribute their plants to their patients.

The proposed building is a 100-by-60-feet, with 12,000 square feet of floor space over two stories. The height of the building is 20 and a half feet.

Stoppini will have employees work in the building if it’s approved. He has already laid out plans for the appropriate number of parking spaces required and has had Earl Tyler of Tyler Concrete and Construction wrote up detailed plans of how potential stormwater runoff will be handled.

Tyler said the building will be graded so all water drains into a four by eight foot well. The water will drain into another four by eight foot dry well by way of a six inch pipe. From the dry well the water will then leach into the sand, causing no erosion problems, according to Tyler.

Abutters

Abutters are worried about more odors coming from the new two-story facility, due to the increase in size. Abutters are also concerned that property values could decrease if smell continues to be an issue.

Other concerns were light emissions and noises produced by even more on-site power generation.

Ruby Coolidge, who lives parallel to Stoppini’s property, wants to make sure if the facility is built that it is blocked by trees. Stoppini plans to keep the trees, so a view of the facility from the road would be mostly covered. Stoppini also says the roofing and paint color will blend in with the trees so the building does not stick out.

Aug 22 meeting

The Planning Board reviewed Stoppini’s application again last Wednesday, and the motion to approve Stoppini’s application ended in a 2-2 tie with one member abstaining.

Members Mike Charron and Duane Bennett were in favor, members Cheryl Thurston and Laurie Winsor were against and Carolyn Dunn abstained. Members Neil Scanlon and Patricia McCartney were absent.

The main issue the board could not come to agreement on is whether or not the mitigation of the smell from the greenhouse should be part of the condition of approval for Stoppini’s proposed building site.

Resident Jarrod Crockett said he believes the proposed building and greenhouse should be linked together.

“If you’re going to process those plants in that building and it’s light industrial use than they are tied together, so you can require it.” Crockett said.

Charron said the board does not have the authority to include the greenhouse as part of the condition of approval.

“We can’t go back and submit adjustments to the construction of an existing building and how it’s operated from this board, that’s not our charter,” Charron said. “It’s a stretch of our authority to be determining what is occurring in existing buildings, some of which are his private residence.”

“Home occupations are not subject to review by the planning board,” Planning Assistant Sarah Tucker added.

Charron proposed to the board that residence discussion be put “off the table,” considering Stoppini is growing legal products.

Stoppini has already installed a recirculating carbon filter system in his current greenhouse to help mitigate the smell, a reason why he believes his greenhouse should not be linked to his proposed building.

Member Duane Bennett agreed with Stoppini.

“I feel it’s met because he already has it (the filters) in the greenhouse. There’s already a system there,” Bennett said.

Crockett said the only thing standing in the way of an agreement is if Stoppini can agree to link the two buildings together.

‘The greenhouse, because of the size of it, and the production that is going into the building, if he’s willing to agree to the mitigation it’s a done deal,” he said.

Stoppini says he will to seek additional advice from his attorney. The Planning Board plans to request guidance from the selectmen to help the board understand the relationship between the greenhouse and the new proposed facility.

The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m.

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