ORLEANS – One of two businesses authorized to operate a recreational marijuana establishment in town won approval from the zoning board of appeals last week.
After some discussion about whether or not it could begin its review, the zoning board voted unanimously June 15 to award a special permit to Seaside Joint Ventures, Inc., which plans to operate under the name Seaside Cannabis Co. on Lots Hollow Road.
The company's four owners include Orleans resident and former select board member David Currier, attorney Tim McNamara of Mashpee, Adam Higgins of East Sandwich and AJ Luke of South Yarmouth, who owns the property.
Plans call for Seaside Cannabis to operate out of an existing building at 14 Lots Hollow Rd. The business would operate on the ground floor, while two apartments that currently exist on the second floor will remain.
The company has entered into host community agreements with the town to both sell and manufacture marijuana in Orleans. McNamara, the company's attorney, said Seaside will only sell marijuana to start.
There would be 40 parking spaces on the property under the existing plan, which includes space in the rear of the property to provide adequate access for emergency vehicles. Hours of operation would be seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Prior to the June 15 hearing, the question was raised as to whether the zoning board could begin its review of the project without Seaside having a license from the state's Cannabis Control Commission in hand. The town's bylaws state that applicants must have all necessary permits from the state before they can apply for a special permit from the zoning board.
McNamara said the company's application is currently before the commission, but there is no timetable as to when it might act on it.
"The commission is unpredictable," he said. "It's a new agency, and it's going through the same staffing challenges as everyone."
McNamara further argued that it's not possible for Seaside to follow the town's bylaw, noting that the state commission requires applicants to have zoning approval in order for a license to be granted. He added that the stipulation is unnecessary, as the business cannot operate without the state license.
"We're looking for guidance from the board under the circumstances," he told the board.
Residents regularly ask about the status of the business and when it might open its doors, McNamara said. Even with approval of a special permit, he said it will likely be at least another year before a building permit might be issued for work to begin on the building.
McNamara suggested that the special permit be approved with the condition that Seaside eventually obtain its license from the state. Bruce Taub of the zoning board supported the board moving ahead in its review of the project.
"This is obviously some sort of Catch 22," he said. "For us to attach that as a condition almost seems unnecessary."
Zoning board members' questions focused largely on security and traffic. McNamara said the property will be fully lit from the outside, while the entirety of the property, both indoors and outside, will be covered by security cameras.
Customers would be able to access the business from the back of the building, where they would need to provide either a patient ID or driver's license to gain entry to the sales floor, McNamara said. Access to the building would be restricted to authorized personnel, and only select personnel would have access to the store's retail vault, where product would be moved from the sales floor and stored overnight.
The front entrance will be used to service curbside pickup orders, while another side entrance would be used to accommodate deliveries, McNamara said.
Seaside's plans have been reviewed by the town's site plan review committee, board of health, traffic and parking study committee and officials with the department of public works. The town's police and fire departments have also reviewed the project's security and traffic plans, McNamara said.
While the apartments already exist on the site, zoning member Lynne Eickholt asked if they will continue to be suitable for tenants given the additional traffic the business might bring to the property. Currier said given the ongoing struggle to create housing for residents and workers, the decision was made to keep the apartments.
"As a current business owner in Orleans, workforce housing is the talk of all of us," said Currier, who owns The Alley Bowling and BBQ on Route 6A, as well as the neighboring laundromat.
The board also raised questions about traffic coming on and off the site, which they said could pose problems on oft-busy Eldredge Park Way, especially during the summer months.
"We're all familiar, in having taken a look at the property, of the traffic in and out of Agway, the automobile dealership, the hockey rink and the transfer station," ZBA Chair Michael Marnik said, referring to the neighboring businesses on Lots Hollow Road.
But David Lyttle of the engineering firm Ryder & Wilcox said customers can be directed to turn right out of the business and onto Finley Road, which leads out to Route 28, thereby avoiding potential traffic snarls on Eldredge Park Way.
Currier said that in talking with Agway's owner, he found that the busiest time for traffic on Lots Hollow Road is in the morning up until 9:30 a.m.
"That's why we chose [to open at ] 10," he said. He added that customers would be asked to exit onto Route 28 via Finley Road at other times during the afternoon, including when buses leave Orleans Elementary School and when traffic is expected to be heavy with beachgoers leaving Nauset Beach.
The zoning board approved the special permit without conditions.
A second business, Ember Gardens, has also been selected by the select board to enter into a host community agreement with the town to operate a retail marijuana business at 41 Route 6A. In December, the company's CEO, Shane Hyde, said he hoped the business might open at the end of 2022.
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