OLD SAYBROOK – After rejecting a proposed marijuana retail store in October, Old Saybrook zoning officials now have two new applications for businesses to consider: a scaled-down version of the retail store they already rejected, and a marijuana growing business that isn’t currently allowed by town regulations.
Fine Fettle, which is appealing the Old Saybrook Zoning Commission’s rejection of its proposed marijuana retail store at 233 Boston Post Road, submitted an application for a store in the same building that would have fewer registers, fewer employees and allow fewer customers each hour than the original proposal.
Fine Fettle CEO Ben Zachs initially proposed a store that would have 12 registers, 15-23 employees on site, and serve about 35-40 customers an hour, limited by requiring customers to pre-order marijuana and pick it up at a scheduled time.
The new application is for a store that would have 8 employees on site, and serve a maximum of 30 customers per hour. The new proposal would also use only part of the building, taking up the same area as a proposed medical marijuana dispensary that received zoning approval for the site in 2018, but never opened.
The changes are aimed directly at satisfying the reasons offered by the Zoning Commission in rejecting the first application: that there was not enough parking for the employees and customers of the proposed business, and that the site was too small for a marijuana retailer of the size Fine Fettle proposed.
The initial proposal drew opposition from nearby residents and businesses, as well as from Old Saybrook Police Chief Michael Spera, who claimed the town would need to hire more police officers if the business was allowed.
In the application, Fine Fettle said that stores in Branford and Montville that will be able to start selling to all adults over 21 next week will ease concerns about grand-opening traffic volumes.
Neighboring Westbrook is also considering a proposal for a marijuana retailer on Boston Post Road.
Fine Fettle has also proposed contributing $50,000 to redesigning the nearby Springbrook-Boston Post Road intersection from a “Y” to a “T” – if the change is approved by Connecticut Department of Transporation. The previous application raised concerns that additional traffic would make the situation worse at an intersection locals say is problematic and dangerous.
The Old Saybrook Planning Commission meets Wednesday to decide whether to recommend approval to the Zoning Commission, which would hold a public hearing on Jan. 18.
A second business, 5 Custom, LLC, registered to Jacqueline Appleby, owns 5 Custom Drive, an existing warehouse next to the DMV on the west side of Old Saybrook, that the zoning has designated as a second possible site for a retail marijuana store.
Appleby, represented by attorney Matthew Rosenthal, is asking the Zoning Commission to allow marijuana “micro-cultivation” in the B-4 zoning district – which includes those two properties, as well as surrounding commercial areas along Boston Post Road.
By state law, “micro-cultivation” is any marijuana growing operation with between 2,000 and 10,000 square feet of growing space. The existing warehouse on Custom Drive is 4,438 sf.
In an application letter, Rosenthal made the argument that the zone already allows “similar” uses, including the “manufacture, processing or assembling of goods.” Rosenthal also argued the B-4 district is intended to allow development of businesses that need easy access to major highways, which micro-cultivation requires.
The new regulations proposed by Appleby would allow micro-cultivation in the B-4 zone by special exception – which would require the zoning commission to hold a public hearing and approve a site plan.
The proposed regulations would also require a 1,000 foot buffer from town buildings, parks, public recreation areas, open space, child care centers, schools and places of worship – and would require a 500 foot buffer from residential properties.
“Cannabis micro-cultivation is a new industry within the state with a great deal of economic and employment growth potential,” Rosenthal wrote. “Adding to the diversification of the local business sector will help to ensure that Old Saybrook’s economy remains strong into the future.”
A public hearing with the Zoning Commission is scheduled for Feb. 22 for the proposed zone change.