Oak Bluffs planning board mulls medical marijuana dispensary sites

The Oak Bluffs planning board has identified a total of 13 parcels across three locations where a new registered marijuana dispensary (RMD) overlay district might be created. The general area of each location is marked by a star. — Illustration courtesy of Google

Updated 4:10 pm Wednesday, October 2, 2013.

The Oak Bluffs planning board last Thursday discussed the creation of a registered marijuana dispensary (RMD) overlay district and reviewed draft bylaws that will define where an RMD may be located in their town.

The planners identified a total of 13 parcels across three locations where a new district might be created. They include one parcel in the hospital district, six parcels off of Holmes Hole Road, and six parcels along Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road between Goodale Construction Company and Bayes Norton Farm.

The board also considered proposed regulations that would include the required distance from a school, park, residential or community area. The discussion followed the release September 23 by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) of a short list of 158 applicants who are eligible to move on to phase two of an application process that will allow a total of 35 medical marijuana dispensaries statewide to cultivate and market medical marijuana and marijuana infused products. The list includes Oak Bluff businessman Mark Wallace and his son, Jordan Wallace, operating as Kingsbury Group Corporation, who propose to set up shop in Oak Bluffs.

One will prevail

“The purpose of the meeting, is that we want to get some input from the town before we finalize the draft that we will be submitting to the board of selectmen,” Oak Bluffs planning board chairman John Bradford explained Thursday night.

There are four applicants applying for a license to open an RMD on the Island, but Mr. Bradford said it was more realistic to assume that only one RMD will prevail.

“The odds are there’s only going to be one dispensary on the Island,” Mr. Bradford said. “We wanted a place that could be easy to get to by private vehicle and public transportation and provide anonymity for the people using it.”

DPH regulations require that applicants comply with all municipal rules, regulations, and bylaws in the town in which they are applying to open.

According to DPH, RMDs may not be located within 500 feet of any school attended by children under the age of 18, any licensed child care facility, correctional facility, playground, public athletic field, or similar recreational facility.

“This being different than most other zoning applications, health and safety is what we’re trying to encourage,” Oak Bluffs selectman Gail Barmakian told the planners. Ms. Barmakian also asked that the planning board address parking issues before they submit their proposal to town officials.

As defined by the DPH, a dispensary is a facility that cultivates, produces, and sells medical marijuana to licensed patients. Any RMD in Oak Bluffs will only be allowed if a special permit is granted from the town zoning board of appeals (ZBA), and the facility must operate in accordance with state regulations, Mr. Bradford explained.

Michael Mahoney, a Boston lawyer representing Kingsbury Group Corporation, told the planning board that his client had found two locations to host an RMD, one on Uncas Avenue, the other on Duke’s County Avenue.

“We’re interested in the expansion of that area for the primary reason that we believe it would be a low impact to the Island,” Mr. Mahoney said. “The application that we applied for, if we’re successful, will give us a dispensary on the Island and two dispensaries on the Cape.”

Mr. Mahoney told the board that the off-Island growing facility will be somewhere near the airport in Hyannis and will be heated by solar panels.

“The area that my clients are in favor of, they would want it as close to downtown as possible, to keep it away from the residential areas,” Mr. Mahoney said. “They don’t want it near any park area whatsoever, or a school.”

Oak Bluffs Police Officer Jeff LaBell addressed the planners on behalf of Oak Bluffs Police Department Chief Erik Blake. “I spoke with the chief today. He thinks that having a dispensary out of the downtown area would be best,” Mr. LaBell said. “In the summertime, there’s so many kids around. And then there’s the issue of privacy.”

Officer LaBell also addressed the issue of street crime. “I think we can look at Colorado and see what’s going on there,” he said. “Crime rates go up, there’s more robberies. When people know that people have the product, there are going to be more break-ins.”

The planning board has scheduled another public meeting at 5 pm, Thursday, October 3, in the town hall meeting room.

Three criteria

In a telephone conversation with The Times Tuesday, Mr. Bradford said the decision of where to place the RMDs was based on three criteria: accessibility, anonymity, and impact. The first parcel, in an area now designated as “the health care district,” would fall between Windemere road and Hospital road on property owned by Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

“We felt the hospital location made a lot of sense for a dispensary,” Mr. Bradford said. “Since this is a substance used for medicinal purposes, the planning board felt this would be a logical place.”

The second area along Holmes Hole Road, includes parcels owned by the Vineyard Nursing Association, Mark Guilford, John Avilla, Woo Art, SBS properties and William McConnel, according to assessor’s records.

The third possible location for an RMD, would fall along Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road between the Goodale Construction Company and NSTAR. It includes the Bayes Norton Farm and property owned by Goodales.

Mr. Bradford said the planning board did not officially contact property owners in any of the proposed districts presented Thursday because it is only under discussion. He said as the discussion proceeds and there is general consensus the property owners would be contacted.

The Times attempted to call several of the property owners.

Mr. Guilford said he was unaware that his property had been included in a proposed overlay district where an RMD would be located and declined to comment further on the matter.

Jamie Norton, a math teacher at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and owner of Bayes Norton Farm, has two parcels listed within one of the proposed RMD locations. Mr. Norton said he was aware of the fact that his properties had been named by the planning board, however he is opposed to having a dispensary on his property.

“I think they chose this area because they figured that people could grow it here and no one would even notice,” Mr. Norton told The Times. “But it’s not our intent to have a marijuana dispensary here, and when they told me about it, I just laughed.”