The Halifax Board of Selectmen met remotely on Tuesday, Oct. 5, in the Great Room of the Halifax Town Hall to hear from the Green Earth Cannabis, Inc. and address concerns by neighboring property owners and other townspeople.
Selectman Chair Gordon Andrews recused himself from the hearing regarding the Host Community Agreement (HCA) with Green Earth Cannabis, Inc. as his father owns a business in close proximity to the proposed site. The Chief Executive Officer of Green Earth is John Kudryk, the Chief Financial Officer is Matthew Collins, The Director of Operations is Robert Maker, and the Director of Security is Jay Skowronek. Maker has lived in Halifax for more than 25 years. While not a principal, Laurence Gogarty will be heavily involved, particularly with the site plan.
The proposed location for the adult use marijuana retail establishment is 657 Monponsett St. The lease for the left side of the commercially zoned building was signed in November of 2020. The right side of the building is Twin Lakes Liquor Store. According to Green Earth the location meets all local and state requirements.
A preliminary store layout was shared on screen during the meeting. It still needs Planning Board approval as well as approval from several other agencies including the Halifax Police Department and the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC).
The four steps required to open include an approved HCA, a community outreach session, a license from the CCC, and a full site plan review by the Planning Board complete with public hearings as well as a special permit. The only issue on the table during Tuesday’s meeting was the HCA. Lawyer for Green Earth Toby Dilworth laid out the terms of the 5-year HCA including a preference for hiring local residents, a 3 percent local excise tax on each retail sale, the highest allowable community impact fee of 3 percent, an adequate security system, and a community dispute resolution process. The terms are the same as those in Halifax’s HCA with Flower and Soul. “We say that what is reasonable and fair for Flower and Soul is reasonable and fair for us,” Dilworth said.
Projected revenues were also shared with the Selectmen and others on the call. Dilworth called the numbers conservative saying that by year one they anticipate $4,900,000 in total sales with that number increasing to $7,841,103 by year five. Halifax would see roughly $290,000 of the first year’s sales. “I submit that there is no other business that could generate as much revenue for the town at that location as Green Earth could and I think it would be a much better neighbor than other options,” Dilworth said. Dilworth acknowledged concerns such as loitering, litter, and traffic but said that they would all be properly addressed.
During the question-and-answer portion of the hearing, Selectman Ashley DiSesa asked what would be done to make residential neighbors more comfortable. DiSesa said that while the HCA is the same as the one used by Flower and Soul, the location proposed by Green Earth is very different with a lot of residents nearby. “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on this particular property from the residents of this town,” DiSesa said. Dilworth said that there would be both fencing and buffering which would need to be resolved by the Planning Board. Selectman Troy Garron expressed some concern over security. Dilworth assured him that they would be consulting with the Halifax Police Department regarding security requirements.
Nearly 30 residents joined the call to offer input during the hearing. A resident who said she lives directly behind the building questioned whether there was really three acres of parking available as stated by Dilworth during his presentation. Gogarty clarified that there were in excess of 98 parking spaces available. He went on to say that it would require maximizing the paved area but noted that they may not necessarily create that many spaces.
Another resident spoke up to say that it would bring in revenue to the town and if the company follows the rules and procedures, “why wouldn’t we when every other town seems to be doing this?” He questioned why residents would want to bring their money to another town. Someone else countered that they have concerns about people drinking and smoking in the parking lot and then driving. Gogarty again stressed that they would be meeting or exceeding any local or state safety requirements.
Throughout the hearing, Dilworth continually replied that it would be the job of the Planning Board to sort through the issues that were being brought forth by the residents in attendance. “In your presentation, you said you wanted to be a good neighbor; don’t you think you would have come with some of these answers or been able to give us a better answer than that’s someone else’s job,” an abbutter said. She continued, “I just don’t hear that you guys are trying to be good neighbors because you are completely dismissing everything that people are saying… I think the other companies that did get the approval in Halifax definitely did stuff to appease the neighbors to get their stuff approved.” “There’s always opposition from the abutters, but we’re going to do everything we can to alleviate that,” Dilworth said.
Before closing, two other residents offered their support for the new business. The residents opposed to the business seemed to echo the sentiment that it was not the type of business they were opposed to but rather the location of that business.
Town Administrator Charlie Seelig expressed concern that the CCC was moving away from allowing towns to use the three percent community impact fee for whatever they want and more toward the money needing to be allotted to issues directly caused by the marijuana business in question. “I’m just concerned that… the laws themselves may change in the future,” Seelig explained. “You’ve negotiated as much protection as you possibly can,” Dilworth said.
Garron said he was not as comfortable as he wanted to be with the presentation that night but said he believed they should move forward with the HCA. DiSesa agreed acknowledging that it was not their job to deal with things like the security of the business or whether the setbacks are appropriate. “I do hope that they will do the community outreach as soon as possible… I do believe if you are going to be a successful business in this town you should really hear what the residents in this town are saying and be a little bit more accommodating,” DiSesa said. “I just want to make a statement that we have to trust the fact that the Police Department, the Fire Department, the Planning Board, the Building Inspector – they are going to do their job to their best before any kind of permit is given,” Garron said. It was agreed that the decision on the HCA would be made at a later meeting.
In other business, Seelig told the Board that the South Shore Children’s Museum was seeking permission for live entertainment during a not so scary walk that they plan to hold at Walmart in late October. The Selectmen voted to approve the request.