Letter: Westport marijuana plan — a different kind of healing required

Posted 12/30/20

To the editor: 

Coastal Healing has every right to pursue and potentially obtain a site permit from the Planning Board to operate a recreational marijuana outlet on Route 6 in Westport.  …

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Letter: Westport marijuana plan — a different kind of healing required

Posted

To the editor: 

Coastal Healing has every right to pursue and potentially obtain a site permit from the Planning Board to operate a recreational marijuana outlet on Route 6 in Westport.  That being said, they do not have the right to put forth an insufficient plan, ignore state law, take regulatory shortcuts and then expect an expeditiously served-up blanket approval. 

I have informed the Planning Board, Selectmen Board, Building Department and Conservation Commission of a number of issues related to this project which need further attention including the following;

1.) For some reason the applicant and the town have overlooked state and federal rules that require a specific site permit be obtained prior to the start of construction.  This is called a NPDES permit (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System). 

Given the nature of this "growing" facility, there is every likelihood that this permit would not only be required for construction but also for ongoing operations.  Construction is nearly complete and it is unclear if or when the NPDES permit has been obtained.

2.) For some reason the applicant and the town have overlooked a state regulation that requires commercial buildings of this size to utilize what is called "controlled construction.” This means that the architect or engineer for the project applies for and takes out the building permit, not the contractor.  The idea here is that the town may not have the expertise to properly oversee a complicated project and this rule puts the onus and liability for proper construction and completeness on the architect and his engineering credentials, not the town. 

It is not clear to me why the town would take on unnecessary liability and allow the applicant to be in conflict with state regulation. The applicant has claimed that the project is in fact being run as "controlled construction" but this cannot officially be the case unless the building permit and associated inspection and testing responsibilities are transferred to the architect.  And this has not occurred.

3.) For some reason, the applicant and the town have overlooked the requirement to adhere to the erosion control plan on the site prior to commencing work.  In this case, I have no idea if the controls put in place are sufficient because they represent only about 30 percent of that which is called for by the applicant's own plan.  They need to execute the plan or gain approval on a modified plan.

4.) For some reason the applicant and the town have so far not seen fit to adhere to site requirements that have been routinely imposed on other businesses.  Namely, why has no sidewalk been required when two recent projects at either end of this strip of Route 6 have installed sidewalks?  This business is next to and across the highway from two bus stops that will no doubt bring pedestrian traffic and cause those people to compete with vehicles entering and exiting this business from a high speed roadway.

5.) Most importantly, there is only one request that the Select Board has put forth to the Planning Board regarding approval of this project; that being to require a parking and traffic plan that will be capable of handling the anticipated flow of vehicles.  The applicant's plan is unchanged from that which was submitted to obtain the by-appointment medical permit issued by the Planning Board earlier this year.  Our own Police Department has confirmed that this plan is completely unacceptable for the new use of recreational retail sales. 

You need look no further than the few similar businesses in the area with several times the parking capacity, and which exist on roads with much lower speed limits, to know that we would be creating a dangerous situation here on Route 6. 

The applicant is attempting to avoid addressing the safety issues by claiming that recreational sales will be by-appointment only.  That would make them the only retail outlet of its kind in Massachusetts to be by-appointment.  This is not a long-term plan and will quickly be jettisoned.  Most will agree that the Planning Board and the town cannot effectively insert themselves into a role like this where we try to micromanage the way in which a company runs its business.  

 The first four issues listed above can be easily addressed by the applicant if the appropriate town authorities would simply require them to adhere to the rules.  The parking and traffic plan is more difficult.  The fact is that this site is too small for the intended use.  Let’s face it, the applicant is trying to fit 10 pounds of potatoes into a 5 pound sack.  They need more land.

Some have erroneously stated that the applicant is deserving of a favorable ruling simply for suffering through a lengthy approval process.  I would argue this is less a sign of the applicant’s patience, than it is an indication that the proposed location and use are troublesome.  This site plan, in its current form, will introduce unnecessary danger to clients, employees and travelers on Route 6.  I urge the town to heal its approval process and get this right before avoidable harm is done.  

R. Michael Sullivan

Westport

(Mr. Sullivan is a former Westport Board of Selectmen member and chairman.)

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