HANSON — The company opening a marijuana grow facility in town will be conducting another community outreach meeting on their new manufacturing component. The virtual meeting will be heavily promoted on local media beforehand, according to co-owner Ralph Greenberg.
During the Tuesday, July 7 Board of Selectmen meeting, members also addressed the Town Meeting warrant articles, including one to approve the amended W-H Regional School Agreement. They unanimously voted to include the article on the warrant as a placeholder, with the aim of including it as an open-ended discussion that could include a change in School Committee membership to five from each town.
Selectmen will discuss the article again at its Tuesday, July 21 meeting.
The Board of Selectmen on June 30, had voted to conduct a review of an amendment the host community agreement (HCA) with Impressed LLC to include a manufacturing license at 15 Commercial Way for its meeting this week. The board voted to make that approval July 7.
The Cannabis Control Commission has issued guidance about virtual meetings to allow applicants to discuss plans with the community, according to Town Counsel Kate Feodoroff. Accommodation must be made for hearing-impaired viewers and a process must be available for residents to ask questions during the meeting. Only one meeting is required and is planned in about a month.
“Their contention is it will make the business more profitable and, therefore, sustainable — the benefit to the town being that the community impact payment will increase based on their profitability,” Feodoroff said June 30 of the request by co-owners Ali and Ralph Greenberg. Profitability is based on gross sales.
Selectmen had asked the applicants to attend the meeting. While not the technical review that would take place in the permitting process, Feodoroff said Selectmen were seeking information on the general impact to the town. She prepared an amendment to the HCA in case the Selectmen wished to go that route.
Based on her work in other towns, Feodorff said cultivation and manufacturing, which are both passive uses, tend to go hand-in-hand.
Ralph Greenberg said that some of the waste would be used in the manufacturing process, reducing the amount to be disposed of.
“Candidly, the increased revenue — not only for the company, but for the town — is going to be really cool,” he said.
Selectmen Chairman Kenny Mitchell asked how long it would take to get the manufacturing license, which Ralph Greenberg estimated would take as long as the cultivation license has taken. He hopes to have that process concluded by the end of the year.
Feodoroff said the company’s engineers have their plans ready for submission to the Conservation Commission as part of a plan to square off the building.
Ali Greenberg said no equipment could be installed until after local approval and CCC licensing.
Ralph Greenberg said that, with the new cultivation process, the company will be “increasing [the] economic structure by at least 20 percent.” What had been estimated at a $10 million company could see profits of $12 to $15 million business model with a manufacturing component adding an additional 10 percent.
He said a 3 percent impact payment could be $450,000 to the town, with the first payment to the town by the summer of 2021 if not before.
The amendment could take four to five months to move through the process for local approval. The CCC can’t give final approval until all the local approvals are received.
Additional public meetings will be held on the request for a license change.
“We’ll have to do the same process again,” said Ali Greenberg. “We’ll have to do the community outreach, we’ll have to send out the notices, and, usually, with the approval from the town, we can get that done within the month.”
That process would take a few months. Feoodoroff said the CCC has offered guidance for remote community outreach meetings, allowing them to be conducted remotely. That option requires approval from selectmen and the ADA accommodation of closed captioning. The board could not vote on an outreach meeting June 30, because that aspect of the discussion was not posted.
All zoning and conservation approvals would also require public hearings.
Ralph Greenberg also responded to a question from Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett about a new extraction process prevent waste water from manufacuring process from infringing on nearby wetlands.
He said it involves “heat and pressure and ice and water,” where a lot of manufacturers use ethanol or other chemicals.
“[Chemicals] was never our business model,” he said. “Everything is going to be as organic as possible, based on CCC requirements.”
They said other businesses don’t use the technique because it dilutes the profits.
“The concern for manufacturing is almost erased with our approach,” Ali Greenberg said.
Regional Agreement Amendment
In opening the July 7 discussion on the warrant article, Mitchell said he personally was not intending to tell other selectmen how to think or how to vote.
“Is this the best solution that we wanted? No,” he said. “There were several roadblocks getting here. We didn’t like how we got here, but … this is the best possible deal that we can get right now.”
Selectman Jim Hickey initially said he would not second any motion, but later argued for placing the article for further discussion.
“I’ve stated from the beginning that I was against this,” Hickey said. “I know it is what it is, but I can’t second this motion.”
Hickey said he disagreed with the whole idea that the board would go along with an issue on which the School Committee was split 6 to 4 in Whitman’s favor.
“This is probably one of the most difficult articles that I’ve seen, at least in the three-some odd years that I’ve been on this board,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “I don’t like where we’re at.”
She said what could have begun as an “organic conversation” about how both towns discovered the assessment errors and each felt ripped off, and should have led to a more open dialog, became a different conversation.
“If it were a one-time agreement and we were able to go back to the table and talk about a long-term agreement, I probably would be more inclined … but there are some fundamental pieces missing to this that I think are critical to a partnership — which is an open dialog, a conversation of mutual respect and acknowledgement of what this means to each side,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
At the same time, FitzGerald-Kemmett reminded the board that three members of Whitman’s Board of Selectmen are also taking a risk in their efforts to find an amicable solution, too.
“There have been partners in Whitman that have stuck their neck out on this,” she said. “I want to acknowledge people on the School Committee as well, who have tried to be good partners. … Don’t we deserve to be able to have a conversation about that and see it all the way through?”
She acknowledged that her comments did not make it clear where she stands, because she feels incredibly conflicted on the issue.
Mitchell said if the warrant article, seeking $500,000 from Hanson, fails at either town meeting, Hanson could be facing a bill for the $10.9 million it would be responsible for with an immediate shift to the statutory agreement with no compromise period.
Selectman Matt Dyer also indicated he could not offer a second to the motion because, while it is financially the most responsible thing to do, he felt it was not responsible to move the article when the public has had no opportunity to give their opinion on the issue.
He said he was open to a 50/50 agreement for this year while the towns negotiated but has felt he has been unheard.
Mitchell countered that the kind of discussion Dyer spoke of is what Town Meeting is for.
“I have no faith that Whitman is going to approve this amendment, either,” said Selectman Wes Blauss.
Hickey said, while he is opposed, the board has an obligation to let the people decide.
“If we don’t vote to put this on the warrant, nobody gets to talk about it,” Hickey said. “I think we have the obligation to the people of Hanson to make sure that it gets placed so that they can talk about it.”