By SHERIDAN CYR
The Planning and Zoning Commission approved a special permit application and a site plan application for a medical marijuana dispensary, About Wellness, LLC, to be located at 30 Knotter Drive, Unit 1 during their regular meeting on May 15. Commissioners defended their decisions prior to the vote.
The special permit application and the site plan application were voted on as two separate business items. The special permit application was approved 6-1 with vice chair Paul Chaplinsky Jr. (R) casting the dissenting vote. The site plan application passed 7-0.
Commissioners Jen Clock (R), Dagmara Scalise (D), Robert Hammersley (R), chair Mike DelSanto (R) and alternate Joseph Coviello (R) all spoke to their decision to approve the item.
“This is a very hard decision for all of us, and our vote does not mean we support or don’t support drugs, or are sending a message,” said Clock. “I hope that residents take our position into consideration. We are a body that decided, with not a lot of input, to create regulations to accept a business into our community. We laid out the regulations with all of our concerns, and everybody was in support of those regulations. I think that this business person [the applicant] went above and beyond to meet those regulations.”
This is the second application the commission has seen for a medical marijuana dispensary in a short span of time. The first one was asking to be located adjacent to a residential area.
“I had a problem with the last application because it was in a residential neighborhood. This one is not,” said Hammersley. “This is probably one of the best locations in town to put it, if anywhere, because there are no residents, a couple of businesses, and it’s kind of set back from the road.”
Hammersley said he had hoped the application would not get approved, “but I don’t think we have any option but to vote for this. They meet the regulations, and they’ve gone above and beyond providing us with material and have done a very professional job.”
Chaplinsky voted against the application and stated the report on property values was insufficient since it didn’t offer substantial information on the effect to nearby commercial or industrial businesses’ property values.
“I feel we still haven’t had the burden of proof that this is not going to have a detrimental effect,” he said. “Our regulations say we have a right to interpret under a special permit application. There is an element to this board’s opinion.”
Town Attorney Carolyn Futtner reminded commissioners their role “is not discretionary. It’s administrative, so the job here is to interpret and apply regulations as written, not to provide opinions.”
DelSanto reported commissioners have been receiving emails and communications from residents urging them to “do the right thing” and turn down the application.
“We all care about the youth, and many of us have children in town. It’s our job as mom and dad to sit down with them every day and tell them, ‘don’t do drugs,’” he said. “To put it on us to make the right decision and look out for our kids – we are doing that. We have a job to do, and we took an oath to follow our regulations.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.