OLD SAYBROOK – Two business owners on Boston Post Road are asking a judge to stop Fine Fettle from opening a marijuana retail store nearby until their appeal of the store’s zoning approval is resolved.
Fine Fettle – which has four marijuana stores in Connecticut and plans to open two more this fall – was initially rejected by the Old Saybrook Zoning Commission in a 3-2 vote over concerns that its proposed store at 233 Boston Post Rd. was too large for the site and the parking lot.
But the company came back with a scaled-back proposal, which was approved by a 3-2 vote, flipped by an alternate member of the commission.
Now as Fine Fettle prepares the building to open its marijuana retailer this fall, Chris Cestaro, owner of Ocean Performance, and Strategic Acquisitions, owner of the building housing Beach Babies Learning Center, asked Middlesex Superior Court Judge Rupal Shah on Tuesday for a restraining order to keep the store from opening until it decides on their appeal.
The two businesses, whose owners spoke out in opposition to the marijuana store during public hearings in late 2022 and early 2023, are asking the court to reverse the Zoning Commission’s approval, arguing the store didn’t comply with zoning regulations and that the commission ignored testimony from local business owners and Police Chief Michael Spera that the store would cause traffic safety issues.
In their motion Tuesday for a restraining order against Fine Fettle, the two business owners argued that Jason Terribile – the alternate member who voted in favor of the second application while sitting in place of Geraldine Lewis, who had voted against the first – did not say in the record that he had reviewed the evidence and testimony from an earlier hearing he was absent from.
The motion said Zoning Commissioners are required by state law to review evidence from meetings they missed before voting on an application. Then-Zoning Chairman Robert Friedmann said into the record that he had reviewed materials from the Jan. 18 public hearing, but Terribile and Marc Delmonico – who were both absent from the same hearing – did not.
The motion also argues that Fine Fettle opening its marijuana store about 250 feet away from the day care for children from 6 weeks to 5 years old violates federal law prohibiting distribution or marijuana within 1,000 feet of a private elementary school or playground. That federal law should supersede Old Saybrook zoning regulations that allow marijuana sales within 1,000 feet of the school, they argued.
“Even one moment of the sale of cannabis, in violation of controlling federal law, constitutes irreparable injury to Strategic Acquisitions [owner of the Beach Babies Learning Center building],” attorney Robert Rimmer argued. “The retail sale of cannabis appears imminent at this location as construction on the site is in progress and in that the retailer claims that it will offer cannabis for sale shortly. This court should restrain these sales until this appeal can be heard on the merits.”