ORLEANS — Ember Gardens and b\well finished first and second in the select board’s composite ranking of applications for the town’s two available retail marijuana licenses. Seaside Joint Venture was ranked third, Dune Wellness fourth, and Strain LLC fifth.
Last night (June 2), the board was scheduled to vote on extending two invitations to negotiate host community agreements, a crucial step in moving forward with the state approval process for licensing.
Both Ember Gardens (composite score 100.8) and b\well (99.8) identified high-profile locations that had been criticized by some members of the public. The Ember Gardens site at 41 Route 6A is a high-traffic area of many businesses and sits next to a summer rental cottage colony. b\well’s site is on West Road next to The Beacon restaurant and near the driveway into the Landings Edge condo complex.
Seaside Joint Venture (97.2) wants to open at 14 Lots Hollow Rd., Dune Wellness (96.6) at 2 Bog Hollow Rd., and Strain LLC (80) in the former Cape Codder printery at 5 Namskaket Rd.
Although all five companies sought public comment by hosting community outreach meetings, and though the board has received an outpouring of letters regarding two of the proposals (many opposing the b\well plan and many others supporting Seaside Joint Venture), the town’s chief procurement officer, Town Administrator John Kelly, advised the board May 18 to focus on the companies’ written responses to the criteria included in the public request for information.
“Because this is a competitive process,” Kelly said, “the fact that you received letters of support should have no bearing on your decision-making…Your selection is based on those criteria (to guarantee) a level playing field… Your obligation to the process is to be impartial.”
Each select board member filled out an evaluation form following final meetings with each applicant on May 17 and 18. These were sent individually to the town administrator’s office for tabulation. The 11 criteria were scored 1 to 10 with two exceptions (sound preliminary business plan and commitment to youth safety, abuse prevention, and community education).
Dune Wellness (8.8 composite score) led the pack on quality/completeness of application, just edging Ember Gardens (8.6), which was followed by b\well (8.2), Seaside (7.6), and Strain (6.6).
The Dune Wellness application did the best job of addressing compliance with local bylaws (9.2), with no company scoring lower than 7.4 (Strain).
Everyone did well on experience in the cannabis industry, with 9's for four candidates and an 8.4 for Seaside. That group rebounded on the next criterion – relevant business experience in Orleans – with an 8.2 that fell short of category-leading b\well (8.6). Ember Gardens was scored at 6.6, trailed by Dune Wellness (2.2) and Strain (0.6).
Rankings for relevant experience in Massachusetts were more evenly assigned, led by b\well at 9.6 and Dune Wellness at 9.4. B\well (15) and Ember Gardens (14.8) were tops for “solid preliminary business plan,” trailed by Dune Wellness (14.2), Seaside (13.8), and Strain (12.2).
Ember Gardens (9.2) was ranked first for employee training and compliance, with no score lower than Seaside’s 7.8. b\well’s preliminary security plan was top-ranked (9), but Dune and Ember Gardens were right behind at 8.8. Seaside was scored at 8 and Strain at 5.6.
There were no very high scorers for traffic and parking plans, but Seaside led the pack at 7.6, followed by Dune Wellness at 7.2. Strain (5.6) and Ember Gardens (5) were ranked above b\well (4.8).
Ember Gardens rose to the top (12.4) in the board’s evaluation of plans for youth safety, prevention, and community education, followed by Dune Wellness (11.4), Seaside (10.6), and Strain (8.2). On diversity and local hiring, all companies were at 8 or above except for Dune Wellness (7.6).