MIDDLETOWN – A plan to put a marijuana dispensary in the former Bank of America building on Washington Street gained unanimous approval from the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday.
SFC CT – a joint partnership between Westport-based medical marijuana dispensary Bluepoint Wellness and two Connecticut residents – is the first to receive zoning approval for a retail outlet in Middletown.
The partnership doesn’t have a state license yet, but Bluepoint owner Nick Tamborrino said that is a matter of “when, not if,” because it was able to skip the lottery process. Existing marijuana businesses, including medical marijuana businesses, can partner with a “social equity applicant” to form an “equity joint venture.” Those ventures can bypass the state lottery process, and are awarded licenses if they meet a set of criteria.
“The team at SFC CT brings the experience necessary to operate a successful dispensary with an impeccable track record for compliance and safety,” Tamborrino told the commission. “I want to show the committee and members of the community that we are dedicated to opening a professional, safe business within the city of Middletown.”
The Planning and Zoning Commission paved the way for marijuana dispensaries in the city’s business district last year, and approved the SFC application unanimously after a quick, 30-minute public hearing where one resident spoke in opposition, citing concerns that legal marijuana would lead more people, particularly children, to use it, and lead to more impaired driving and crashes.
Commissioner Sebastian Giuliano said that he “didn’t disagree with one word” of the resident’s concern with legal marijuana, but said he felt he had no choice but to vote “reluctantly” in favor of the application because it met the requirements of the city’s regulations.
“The reality is that the State of Connecticut, in its infinite wisdom – well, not so much infinite wisdom, but the exercise of its sovereign authority – has declared that this product is allowed, that it’s a legitimate business, and that it’s going to license those outlets,” Giuliano said. “Therefore, I don’t think I have any choice but to vote to approve it.”
Responding to questions from Commissioner Kellin Atherton, Tamborrino said that Bluepoint has not had any instances of violent crime at either of its two medical dispensaries in Connecticut, that products will be clearly marked that they contain THC, and that he did not believe that the problems associated with marijuana use compared to the number of deaths caused by alcohol and tobacco.
Atherton said he supported the application because he didn’t believe it would adversely impact the safety of Middletown residents, that a dispensary should be along the city’s main commercial corridor on Washington Street, and that it’s consistent with Middletown’s plan of conservation and development.
Commission Chari Thom Pattavina said that he also believed the application met the requirements of Middletown’s development plan, and he supported it.
“I think it fills a need in Connecticut, and it will bring a lot of revenue to Middletown,” Pattavina said.
SFC’s attorney Bridget Gallagher said that the application from SFC initially called for operating hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. But Gallagher said SFC would prefer to have the dispensary open until 8 p.m. every night so that it could spread out the high demand it expects when it first opens – especially if it ends up being one of the first dispensaries to open in Connecticut.
Gallagher said they expect demand to drop after the initial opening rush, and a traffic report from David Sullivan of SLR estimated that traffic would be similar to when Bank of America was open on the site, and the 24 spaces on the lot, and 61 additional spaces in the neighboring Home Depot parking lot, would be more than enough.
Gallagher said SFC’s application didn’t propose using the existing drive thru window at the site, but said they reserved the right to ask the commission for permission to use it in the future.
Gallagher said that she couldn’t imagine a better site for a dispensary, since it is a site with an existing business use, in an existing plaza with established traffic patterns, and no residential homes immediately nearby.
“And because it was a former bank, it lends itself to this use because it allows for a particular security,” Gallagher said.