By SHERIDAN CYR
The Planning and Zoning Commission listened to a special permit application for “About Wellness, LLC,” the second medical marijuana dispensary to come before the commission in the last month. The PZC tabled action on the decision until their next meeting with the expectation the applicant, Raj Patel, will return with additional information.
Patel operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Milford that opened in 2016 and said the proposed Southington facility would operate the same way.
“I can tell you that operating a medical marijuana dispensary is exactly like running a pharmacy in terms of the processes we take in dispensing, regulatory oversight by the state and the Department of Consumer Protection, and staffing with pharmacists and pharmacy technicians,” said Patel.
Patel said the proposed location of Knotter Drive was chosen to keep the facility away from any sensitive areas. “We believe the location is appropriate because it is in a business zone and is more than 1,000 feet away from any residences, churches, schools and other sensitive identifiers in state regulation.”
A traffic study presented by Kwesi Brown of Milone & MacBroom, a civil engineering and landscape architecture in Cheshire, reported the facility would have a “minimal effect” of traffic operations on route 322. For the study, Brown focused on traffic at the existing Milford dispensary, which is similarly sized.
Brown said about 23 patrons visit the facility from the “peak p.m. hour” of 5 to 6 p.m., resulting in about 46 trips (in and out) during peak hour. He said this would likely be a “worst case scenario” since the Milford facility covers a wider geographic area from the New York state line to New Haven.
“We don’t anticipate that for this particular space,” Brown said. He said according to Department of Transportation data, about 900 vehicles travel on route 322 during the peak p.m. hour, so they anticipate minimal effect to that. “We feel there will basically be no impact of traffic operations on 322.”
The site plan includes 20 parking spots.
Agent from William Raveis Real Estate, Tammy Varney, looked at property values in Milford as well as Bristol, which also has a dispensary, for her report from a service called Multiple Listings Service (MLS) which shows statistics from property sales including foreclosures and short sale properties.
Varney reported property values increased in both towns.
“You will see from the data that it looks like property valued increased, although we don’t see that as a result of having a dispensary in town. It’s just a result of the housing market in Connecticut right now,” said Varney. “As a realtor in business for 15 years I can pretty much guarantee you the dispensary will have no impact, or at least no negative impact, on residential property.”
PZC chair Mike DelSanto (R) requested Varney return to the next meeting with property value information specifically within a one-mile radius of the dispensaries. Additionally, Paul Chaplinsky (R) asked if Varney could compare a history of Milford property values to a similar municipality that does not have a dispensary in town.
Milone & MacBroom senior planner and vice president Vincent McDermott offered his professional opinion to the applications compliance with regulations set forth by the PZC.
“It is our professional opinion that to operate at this location is consistent with the standards set forth,” McDermott said. The commission had previously approved the site for retail in a business zone. They additionally set regulation limits on medical marijuana dispensaries to two zones: either a B zone or a central business zone. “Therefore you have approved the use, so tonight’s discussion is not a question of use in a business zone, but a question of if this particular location suitable for a business that is already approved by your regulations.”
McDermott said the PZC has control to regulate the particular type of retail use. He said the PZC put additional requirements for medical marijuana as to its location and relationships to other types of marijuana uses.
“That’s where you have the control to regulate this particular type of retail use,” he said. “When you approved that retail use, by whatever method you did at 30 Knotter Drive, that becomes open-ended to other permitted uses in the zone.”
Feeling that the presentation was incomplete, the commission requested the applicant return to their next meeting with additional information.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.