ORLEANS -- One of the two businesses approved to open a recreational marijuana operation in town hopes to be up and running by the end of 2022.
Ember Gardens plans to open a dispensary at 41 Route 6A, and officials gave an overview of their plans during a Zoom presentation on Dec. 7. CEO Shane Hyde said the company expects to undergo local and state review for much of the next year, starting with a traffic study the company plans to undertake in January.
"That's kind of a key first step for us," he said of the study. "That will influence a lot how we design the site in terms of traffic inflow and outflow."
The town has agreed to enter into host community agreements with Ember Gardens and a second company, Seaside Joint Ventures. If and when they open, they will be the first recreational marijuana businesses permitted to operate in Orleans.
A rendering submitted during the Dec. 7 presentation shows an L-shaped Cape-style building with shingles. Dan Gillan, COO for Ember Gardens, said there will be parking for 15 to 16 vehicles, but more can be accommodated if needed for additional employee parking.
"We want to have the character of Orleans and Cape Cod while incorporating an original design," Hyde said.
The Orleans Historical Commission voted in 2018 to allow the existing building on the property to be torn down to make room for the new construction.
Inside, the dispensary will include a vault where supplies will be stored, an open sales floor, a security office and two bathrooms, one of which will be handicap accessible.
Only persons 21 and older will be allowed to enter the facility, and security will require that customers present IDs in order to enter. Hyde said cash pickups and product deliveries will be randomized to avoid theft or any other criminal activity. Hyde said between 20 and 25 full- and part-time employees are expected to work at Ember Gardens. That includes both a lot and a parking attendant that will manage traffic flow and activity outside the property. The company's plan calls for the construction of a two-way entrance and exit to help manage the flow of traffic on and off the property. Consumption of marijuana on the property will be prohibited, and those caught using onsite run the risk of being permanently banned from the facility, Hyde said.
Traffic was among the main complaints from residents and town officials so far consulted on the project, according to Hyde. Select Board member Kevin Galligan, who sat in on the Zoom call, also noted that the Lobster Claw, located across the street from the proposed dispensary, is due to be demolished to make room for a new urgent care facility to be operated by Cape Cod Healthcare. That facility is expected to be open by May.
"A lot is happening in that area," he said.
The company plans for Orleans residents to comprise 25 percent of its workforce. It will also host an annual job fair and internship program for people interested in working in the cannabis industry. Four full-time and part-time internships will be offered a year, and each internship will come with a $3,000 scholarship that interns can use to further their training in the cannabis field.
Ember Gardens' host community agreement with the town also stipulates that it allocates 3 percent of its annual earnings to local programs and initiatives. The company also plans to make an annual charitable contribution of $50,000. Of that figure, $10,000 will go to the Orleans Conservation Trust, Nauset Together We Can, the Orleans After School Program and the Homeless Prevention Council. Hyde said the remaining $10,000 will go to an organization of the town's choice.
Fencing will be installed and natural vegetation will be planted on the property to screen the business' operations from abutters, but Hyde noted that the site's location near the 6A rotary, which is zoned for general business, should not cause problems for neighbors.
"We believe this will have the least amount of impact on residential neighborhoods and drive additional business into the commercial district," he said.
The project is due to be reviewed by the site plan review committee and the zoning board of appeals. The project does not require review from the board of health. Ember Gardens is also in the process of securing its provisional license from the state's Cannabis Control Commission.
Hyde said site plan review can be done concurrently with the state, but that the state license "must be in hand" before the zoning board can begin its review of the project.
Email Ryan Bray at email@example.com