Planning Board defers decision on marijuana retail permit

Sep 9, 2019

The Dartmouth Planning Board has deferred a decision on whether to grant a special permit for what could become the town’s first recreational marijuana store due to concerns that it may be too close to a place where children congregate.

On September 9, the Board held a public hearing on an application by Health Circle, Inc. to open a recreational marijuana dispensary at the VF Outlet on Faunce Corner Road .

The Rockland-based company applied for a special permit as part of the process to apply for a host agreement with the town.

The site is located in the town’s retail marijuana district, which covers a portion of Faunce Corner Road and the New Bedford Business Park. 

According to the current plan, the retail facility would be highly secure and only grant access to those over 21, with three identification checks before purchase.

However, concerns were raised at the hearing that the proposed dispensary would be located about 250 feet away from Healthtrax, a gym and wellness facility that includes programming for children.

Town bylaws for marijuana establishments require them to be sited more than 500 feet away from schools, daycare, libraries, residences, or “any facility in which children commonly congregate.” 

Dartmouth resident James Charrier stood up at the hearing and asked, “The bylaws were put in place to protect children...Can you explain to me how this passes that?”

Charrier said that he owns the property at 508 Faunce Corner Road, which had previously been bogged down in permitting issues with the non-profit William Noyes Webster Foundation in early 2017.

Later that year, another special permit for a medical marijuana business called Elevated Access Center was granted for the site, but it was not zoned for recreational marijuana retail.

“At the time that we were working on my location, there was one child probably within 1,000 feet, and that was a concern,” Charrier said. “This is within 250 feet of the entrance.”

Planning Director Christine O’Grady stated that the plan had been approved by the zoning enforcement officer. 

“This applicant has gone through the process, and the town has determined that this meets the criteria as outlined,” she said. 

“There are structured activities for youths in Healthtrax,” said Charrier. “The age group goes from 8 months to 16 years old.”

“But that’s not their primary function of business,” noted the Board’s Vice Chair Kevin Melo. 

Board member John Sousa stated that the bylaw was meant for marijuana facilities to avoid anywhere near “where children congregate,” not just daycare.

“I’ve got some grave concerns,” he said. “I’d like to hear from the zoning enforcement officer how he determines these establishments and the setbacks.”

The board voted to continue the public hearing to September 23.