WHITMAN — The Board of Selectmen told representatives of a business proposing a medical marijuana growing location in Whitman that any letter or non-opposition or support for such a facility hinges on its exact location.
“This may be the first time that the town has heard this is a possibility,” Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski said. “It might make sense to, maybe, at our next meeting see if we receive any kind of input. There’s no need for a meeting with the Board of Appeals.”
The issue will be acted on at the Selectmen’s 7 p.m., Dec. 13 meeting.
“It’s important to know where it’s going to be sited because that’s going to trigger some response,” said Town Administrator Frank Lynam, who indicated he also wants to speak with the state Department of Public Health before any decision is made regarding the letter.
“If I’m going to ask the board to sign a letter, I want to know what we’re signing,” Lynam said after the meeting.
The letter is the next step the company, Mission Partners — to be known as Fresh Meadow Farm — must complete toward obtaining a Department of Public Health license. Because they are already in the licensing process, company officials said they qualify for the pool of applicants for a recreational marijuana license, but are now solely focused on the medical-use growing facility they hope to locate in Whitman.
Ben Smith of Fresh Meadow Farm gave a brief review of the process during the Board of Selectmen’s Tuesday, Nov. 15 meeting.
Smith said he had reached out to Lynam about the possibility of a medical marijuana growing facility in a warehouse-type building to be sited on Route 18 near routes 14 and 27. The company is working with Crosscup Realty on purchasing a site and is not releasing the exact location until it is firmed up.
The parcel is zoned for light industrial use.
“We have identified a property that might work for us and a land owner that is willing to lease to us to run this operation,” Smith said. The company will be working with Forefront Advisers, a national expert on helping businesses obtain marijuana-related licenses in states where it is legal, as well as helping with the day-to-day operation of the facilities.
Smith’s associate Andrew Thut, affiliated with Forefront Ventures, the financial entity of Forefront Advisers, said a municipal letter of support simply indicates “the town is fine with that facility being there.”
In 2012, 63 percent of state voters passed a ballot question legalizing marijuana for medical use. On Nov. 8, ballot Question 4 passed, legalizing marijuana for personal recreational use.
“The facility we’re looking to do would be [regulated] by the state Department of Public Health,” said Smith. “It’s strictly for cultivation. From the outside it will just look like a warehouse.”
He said the state has already vetted the firm, checking the background of all the people involved and Fresh Meadow Farm has been invited to the next phase of the licensing process — the siting profile.
“Since they’ve already vetted us, invited us to siting, as long as we [receive] the letter of non-opposition and a lease a license will be granted,” Smith said.
This phase requires evidence of interest, a letter of municipal support and compliance with municipal regulations.
Phase one of the project will involve an 18,000-square-foot building that matches area buildings, with an eye to doubling the size when the business grows. The company envisions about 20 job openings at the facility to start.
A Hingham resident, Smith runs his portion of the business from his home, but said Mission Partners has an office at 2 State St. in Boston.
Selectman Daniel Salvucci asked about proximity to schools and residential areas as well as security. Selectman Brian Bezanson suggested the local Board of Health be contacted in light of its recent work on tobacco control regulations.
The parcel meets the state law requiring a distance of 500 feet from schools, houses of worship or locations where children congregate and that a filtration process would be put in place to control smell from the operation.
“I have no objection if it meets legal requirements,” Salvucci said.
Security will be a top priority of Fresh Meadow Farm, according to Smith, who said the business partners with Cana Security, which works with about 500 businesses out West, and Windmill Group that just worked with a Quincy facility.
“We’ll have to work with [Whitman Police] Chief Scott Benton and come up with a plan that satisfies him,” Smith said. Other facilities now operating in the state have not had security problems, he said.
While they don’t plan to sell products directly to the public, Smith said the company would manufacture oils and edibles for medical use.
In other business, Lynam said the town has received a notice from the state’s Architectural Access Board summoning officials to appear before the board in Boston on Feb. 27, 2017 to discuss being fined at the rate of $1,000 per day in relation to a complaint about accessibility of Whitman Park. Town counsel has been notified of the summons and DPW superintendent Bruce Martin has been notified of issues outlined in the complaint.
“The DPW has made notable improvements to the park area based on findings that were made two years ago and again last year by the AAB,” Lynam said. “There was some movement by the AAB and the complaining party to require us to pave all the paths in the park and we are resistant to that. The park is over 100 years old. It was built by the firm of Frederick Law Olmstead, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places and I’m not at all interested in tarring the area.”
He also noted the AAB “went so far as to tell us we should grade the hills so they’re more level” at the last hearing, during which the AAB voted to find for the complainant before opening the hearing.
Lynam said photos submitted to the AAB “do not accurately reflect the conditions” and that a rut has been caused in the path because of water runoff and a lip on the apron of the pool is due to a past concrete lift that evened it out that the town was ordered to remove. A cobblestone path, which the complaint calls a barrier to park access, has been closed to all but maintenance vehicles, with another access path installed opposite the Senior Center.
“This complaint is disingenuous,” Lynam said.
Salvucci agreed the DPW has done a lot in the park.
“We’re getting it done as quickly as we can,” he said. “They can’t expect us to do it all in one year. The town just doesn’t have the money to do it.