ZBA approves cannabis special permit

Counter to Rose’s wishes, Sunday sales nixed to appease abutters.

The zoning board has approved a special permit for recreational marijuana sales at 510 State Road, West Tisbury.

The West Tisbury zoning board of appeals voted unanimously Thursday night to grant Patient Centric a special permit to operate a recreational marijuana outlet at 510 State Road. Among the conditions of the permit was a moratorium on Sunday sales, something Patient Centric CEO Geoff Rose and his attorney Phil Silverman argued against. The vote came after over an hour of deliberation, and follows nearly two hours of debate last week on the subject

Rose pointed out West Tisbury voters “overwhelmingly” supported adult-use cannabis sales. Rose described it as “one of the highest percentages of support in the state.” He asked for a “measured amount of Sunday operation,” noon to 5 pm from May 15 to Sept. 15, and said such hours wouldn’t alter the character of the community. He went on to remind the board his business was unlike any other on the Vineyard in that it sells a retail product by appointment. This stricture, which he said was self-imposed, would make losing a day a week of business damaging to his bottom line. 

“Why would you deny me 5 percent or more of my revenue in a business that I’m trying to build?” Rose said. “I don’t understand the logic. I’ve always found common ground, wherever I have gone, whatever I have done, be it medical, be it adult-use. And I think I’m asking for the opportunity to try this in a responsible manner.”

Neighbor Constance Goodwin demurred. “Mr. Rose does an eloquent job of making the case, but he’s not looking at the whole picture for the neighborhood,” she said. “He is not looking at the quality of life in the neighborhood from May 15th to Sept. 15th.” She went on to say the ZBA noted at the previous meeting that span of time is when folks are outdoors, “when we’re relaxing on a Sunday.” She said she appreciated that Rose is trying to make money, but she believed he should have factored such a variable into his business plan. 

Associate ZBA member Andrew Zaikis, who like associate member Jeffrey Kaye participated in the discussion, was precluded from the vote, but pitched the idea of Sunday sales on a probationary period. 

Goodwin took issue with the level of support she felt Zaikis had expressed for Rose. “Andrew makes the case as if he was a board of director for Geoff, as opposed to ZBA, insofar as I think it makes logical business sense rather than taking something away after a period of time, to grant something after a period of time. As a businesswoman, I understand this concept. And I also understand it would force Mr. Rose to be creative six days a week, and he might surprise himself, and he might actually make more money than he anticipated as a result.”

Goodwin said Rose has a recreational operation in Tisbury open on Sunday. “He can make up the profit there,” she said.

“If we don’t allow Sunday hours at this point,” ZBA member John Rau said, “we’re going to be back here in a year having the same argument … and nobody is going to know what the effect of having Sunday hours would be because there haven’t been Sunday hours.”

Chair Nancy Cole said she thought it would be more difficult for the board to take something away from the business, such as a day of operation, than it would be to grant such a thing in the future.

Attorney Silverman saw it another way: “If you grant this with the condition that Sundays are only good for the first year, it expires effectively after the first year. So you’re not taking it away. It expires. You might have to renew it. And we might have to come in to ask that it be renewed, but I view that as different than you taking it away.”

When the issue of other businesses being open on Sundays came up, Cole pointed out that the cannabis operation was governed by a special permit, and as such all sorts of restrictions are possible at the ZBA’s discretion: “Anybody can come and ask for a special permit for anything they want, but it’s up to us to decide what we’re going to give them after listening to all the testimony and the considerations. So it doesn’t matter if other businesses are allowed to operate on Sundays. This one can only operate under the conditions that we decide.”

Abutter Abby Rabinovitz, co-owner of Tea Lane Associates, spoke against Sundays, and disagreed that the effects of operating on Sundays would become an unknown. She said data from the other six days would provide sufficient understanding of what the impacts will be.

“If you leave Sundays out for one year, you are honoring what has been voted for,” she said. “I think you are giving, actually, an opportunity for a business to function here, to see that it works well on a major thoroughfare in West Tisbury in the mixed business district …”

Rabinovitz went on to say she “very sincerely” wanted Rose to do well, “but I am not convinced, and I’ve been open about this from the get-go, that this is the right spot for this.”

The board went on to vote to approve the special permit with several conditions, including no sales on Sunday and a stipulation Rose could not come back to the ZBA to request an alteration of the special permit until six months after the business is in operation. Another condition was that prior to receiving its permit, Patient Centric must submit a copy of a building inspector–approved parking plan that adheres to West Tisbury zoning bylaw. 

The meeting marked the last ZBA appearance for Cole, who follows several veterans of the board including Toni Cohen, Bob Schweir, and Tony Higgins, who retired after decades of service. 

“I’ve had about 30 years on the board, and it’s been a true pleasure of mine,” Cole said.

The board went on to select Larry Schubert as the new chair of the ZBA.