Hopedale works to streamline process for cannabis companies who want to set up shop in town
By Theresa Knapp
Cannabis companies continue to look to Hopedale to build their businesses, and town boards are concerned.
On Aug. 3, the town’s Select Board, Planning Board, Economic Development Commission, and members of the Zoning Board of Appeals held a joint meeting to discuss the situation, specifically retail marijuana shops of which Hopedale has three.
“I don’t think we want to be known for being the biggest pot distribution town in Mass.,” said Christopher Chase, a member of the Planning Board and the EDC.
David Cedrone of the EDC said the commission recommended the town create an overlay district which would create ‘geographic diversity’ and note where retail establishments could be located, set a buffer zone of 500 feet so businesses ‘are not on top of each other’, and set a limit of four such establishments within town lines.
All boards agreed the town should set clear expectations and create a clear path for success for cannabis companies hoping to establish roots in Hopedale. Currently, there are several town boards involved in the process, starting with the Select Board which issues the Host Community Agreement, the first step in a process overseen by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission.
“Currently, we allow all marijuana establishments and we define the term broadly to include both cultivation and retail and we allow those uses in the commercial, light industry, and industrial zones by Special Permit through the ZBA,” explained Planning Board Chair Stephen Chaplin, who ran the meeting.
At the early August meeting, the four boards discussed the issue for 2.5 hours which resulted in a request to town counsel Nicole Costanzo, Esq., to draft a bylaw framework for the boards to review at another ‘workshop’ meeting to be held in late August. That draft bylaw would include:
Special Permit criteria for cannabis use, including social consumption
• Regulating retail establishments
• Regulating cultivation establishments
• Leaving the Special Permit granting authority as the ZBA
• Setting a quota for retail marijuana establishments at four
After lengthy discussion, the issue of a proposed buffer zone was left out of the proposed draft bylaw with the thought that, if an overlay district was created, that would eliminate the need for a buffer zone. Additionally, if the town establishes a shop quota, a buffer zone would not be needed.
Some time was spent debating a buffer zone of 1,000 feet or 500 feet (or less) which would be directly applicable to a company currently trying to locate another marijuana retail shop on a property that abuts a current pot shop.
Those opposed to a buffer likened two marijuana shops near each other similar to two different fast food restaurants being next to each other, or two popular chain coffee shops being near each other. Others were opposed, in general, to too much governmental oversight and felt the market would determine if such businesses could succeed in close proximity.
The feeling was that an overlay district, which suggests various areas in town for such shops to locate, could solve the issue.
“We don’t think these businesses want to be on top of each other but they’ve ended up [in the same neighborhoods] because of other permitting,” said Cedrone.
The four boards set a follow-up meeting for Aug. 24 at which to review a draft bylaw.