WESTBROOK – A Michigan-based maker of marijuana-infused drinks got an initial nod of approval Monday to open a manufacturing center in a mostly residential neighborhood.
Emerald Canning Partners and Boston-based Adams Avenue Asset Management received unanimous approval from the Westbrook Planning Commission to put a marijuana food and beverage manufacturer in the industrial building at 1244 Old Clinton Road.
The application still needs approval from the Zoning Commission.
Unlike a marijuana retail store on Boston Post Road that has drawn strong opposition from residents of the shoreline town, the proposal for a marijuana edibles manufacturer had a positive reception from the commission.
The applicant Drew Breuninger told the commission that the facility would only be used for manufacturing. There would be no retail, no customers and no cash on site, he said. And the new use of the building wouldn’t have an impact on the surrounding neighborhood, he said.
“If we didn’t have to be here [to get approval from the commission], no one would even know that we were there, to be honest,” Breuninger said. “Ultimately, that’s the safest and most secure. There’s not going to be signage. If we were just operating as a manufacturing facility for this intended use right now without going through public hearings, no one would know we existed.”
The one-story, more than 12,000-square-foot industrial building set along railroad tracks – just a short drive from Interstate 95 and Westbrook Center – is on a tree-lined street that is otherwise filled with single-family homes.
It currently houses a heating equipment supplier that commissioner Bill Neale, who said he lives nearby, said doesn’t disturb the neighborhood.
Neale said the property is industrial because it was a factory before zoning, and it was kept industrial as a pre-existing use despite being surrounded by a residential neighborhood.
“All around is all people’s houses, with their windows facing it,” Neale said.
He said the building’s occupants have always been good neighbors to the community, and Breuninger said they intended to do the same.
Emerald Canning Partners’ application says the facility will “not emit any cannabis odor.” The company will buy distilled marijuana oil from other producers and infuse that oil into its products. All of the plant compounds are removed during the oil extraction process, so the oil they use doesn’t have the distinct smell of marijuana flower, the application said.
The security plan in the application states that “some new lighting” will be installed to light the outside of the building and parking lot, a change Neale said was his main concern for the residents. The application also says the lighting has “glare protection” and wouldn’t interfere with neighboring properties.
State records show Emerald Canning Partners has a provisional license for marijuana food and beverage manufacturing, which it was awarded in the state’s general lottery last year.
Westbrook residents filled public hearings last year to oppose a marijuana retail store proposed for a mixed commercial and residential area on Boston Post Road. The Planning Commission was split 2-2 on the retail store, and didn’t find that it was consistent with the town’s development plan.
But the majority of the Zoning Commission agreed it met the town’s regulations and approved the retail store in January. Local residents have appealed that decision to Superior Court and petitioned the commission to ban any more marijuana stores in the mixed-use “NCD” zone that runs along Boston Post Road.
The manufacturing plan didn’t face the same scrutiny from the Planning Commission, which voted 4-0 to give its approval, finding that the proposal matches the town’s plans for development.
“If it’s quiet like it is now, everybody’s happy,” Neale said. “They come and go and nobody is disturbed.”
The proposal, which also includes a plan to expand the parking lot on the east side of the building to meet the town’s parking requirements, is scheduled for a public hearing with the Zoning Commission on May 22.