WESTBROOK – The Westbrook man behind a second application for a marijuana retailer on Boston Post Road said he believes his new location will cause less outrage among residents who had unsuccessfully pushed the town to ban additional marijuana stores.
Sam Lyman is seeking approval for a store at 144 Boston Post Road, a little over a mile away from BUDR’s planned retailer at 755 Boston Post Road, which the Zoning Commission approved earlier this year, much to the ire of a local beach community.
Lyman said his location, which is currently being used as a standalone RV store and is surrounded by other businesses, won’t have the same issues that many Westbrook residents had with the BUDR store.
The marijuana business would be the only occupant at the site, Lyman said, unlike BUDR, which shares its building with a laundromat and apartments.
Lyman said he thinks opposition to the BUDR store is mainly due to its location, and he hopes residents see his location is a better fit.
“Of course there’s going to be people against the use in general, but I think for a lot of reasons, my location is the appropriate location, and hopefully everyone will feel the same,” Lyman said. “I’m sensitive to the issue. I live in town, and I want to make sure I deliver a product that exceeds the town’s expectations.”
Residents’ plea for ban is rejected
The rollout of legalized marijuana has roiled the Zoning Commission of the small shoreline community since BUDR applied to open a marijuana retail shop last year.
Concerned residents packed public hearings to oppose the BUDR store, many not realizing the commission had already written rules to allow marijuana businesses last summer after public hearings that drew little interest.
The commission approved the BUDR store, saying it met the regulations, and a group of Westbrook residents reacted by appealing the decision to state Superior Court. They also petitioned the commission for a regulation change that would ban any more marijuana stores in the town’s zoned Neighborhood Commercial District – the mixed commercial and residential neighborhood along the Boston Post Road that includes the BUDR store and Lyman’s proposed store.
But on Monday, the commission declined to ban marijuana stores in that zone, voting 4-1 against the petition. Zoning Chair Harry Ruppenicker Jr. told CT Examiner on Tuesday that he and other commissioners were reluctant to ban marijuana retailers so soon after it approved BUDR. It would make the BUDR store a pre-existing, nonconforming use just months after it was approved, he said.
Ruppenicker explained that the commission already debated its marijuana regulations last year. It held the public hearing open for months, and only two people came to speak – one in favor and one opposed, he said.
The lack of interest when the commission was writing the regulations is a stark contrast to the packed meetings the commission has held since word spread about BUDR’s application late last year.
“Everyone is busy with their lives, and I don’t know how many people have time to monitor what goes on on different boards and commissions,” Ruppenicker said. “I think once the application became known, the beach association spread the word and motivated, obviously heightened interest for people to come out in opposition to that specific application.”
Commission looks for a pause
While the commission rejected the residents’ petition to ban more marijuana retail in the Neighborhood Commercial District, they also scheduled a hearing for a proposed six-month moratorium on marijuana retail applications for July 24.
“I think the commission would just like to hit the pause button,” Ruppenicker said. “Let [BUDR] open and just sort of gauge the impact of it before we tackle another one.”
But that pause won’t stop Lyman’s application, which Ruppenicker said he was completely surprised by when it was submitted last week. Initially, Ruppenicker said the town was told that a community the size of Westbrook could only have one marijuana retailer.
Later, they were told there was no limit, he said. In an attempt to limit the number, the commission noted in its regulations that marijuana retailers had to be at least 5,000 feet away from each other.
“We thought we would either have one retailer sort of in the center of town, or that we would have one maybe toward Clinton and one towards Old Saybrook,” Ruppenicker said. “We didn’t really have any expectations. I wouldn’t have been surprised if there had been no applications, this was all new territory for us.”
The commission set an Aug. 28 hearing for Lyman’s application, giving town staff the maximum two months to review it.
Lyman said he doesn’t have a state permit for a marijuana retailer, and is unsure whether he’ll apply on his own in the state lottery, or with a social equity applicant like BUDR did. He explained he could also partner with someone who has a license, who would effectively take it over from him.
“I know [BUDR] is having a tough time with their site, and … who knows? They might even want to come over to my site,” Lyman said. “Or it could be someone else who’s looking to be in the area. I know there’s many large players who are interested in this area.”
The commission also voted 4-1 on Monday to allow Emerald Canning to put a marijuana edibles manufacturer in an existing industrial building in a mostly residential neighborhood on Old Clinton Road.
That applicant, Drew Breuninger, has promised there would be no smell and no disturbance. His application drew far less opposition than BUDR’s retail store.