WESTPORT — An abandoned Main Road property has trash and junk along the front yard. A sign a few feet south of the property reads — “Westport is broken.” The sign goes on to call school and town entities “broke.”
Ironically, that site has garnered interest from a marijuana company and could be a revenue source for an apparent "broke" town — thanks to a Feb. 11 Town Meeting vote.
That vote reversed two 2018 votes banning the sale of recreational pot within town borders. The Feb. 11 Town Meeting vote also reversed a vote from last May, which had banned farmers and others from legally growing marijuana and selling it to licensed marijuana retailers.
Just a few days later, Tree Beard LLC, with a separate proposal on Union Street in New Bedford, released preliminary plans for 1104 Main Road.
At the opposite end of town, Coastal Healing LLC is making progress toward opening the first medical marijuana facility at 248 State Road, on land adjacent to a Holiday Lanes bowling alley. Attorney Brian Corey, Coastal Healing’s legal counsel, helped lead a successful Feb. 11 Town Meeting vote, which will now allow the proposed 10,000-square-foot facility to sell recreational pot as well.
No further permission would be needed to sell retail pot there and all zoning and other requirements would apply to recreational sales, based on the Town Meeting vote.
Although his facility would be near a bowling alley, where families and children congregate, Corey said this week that there are no zoning issues, according to the state. He said the state Cannabis Control Commission considers schools and parks as areas where children congregate and such areas would hinder the development of a marijuana facility.
Corey noted how Town Planner James Hartnett raised that point, but a nearby bowling alley would not represent a zoning issue for Coastal Healing.
Tree Beard LLC issued a proposal to the Planning Board looking to tear down the vacant, boarded-up home and replace it with a 15,000- to 20,000-square-feet facility. The location, within the quaint Central Village, is directly across from Westport Bait & Tackle and a mile south of Town Hall.
Nicholas Gomes, a Fall River lawyer representing Tree Beard Inc., said this week that all plans are preliminary. He mentioned the company’s work with New Bedford and how company officials are concentrating on that, as well as its meeting with the state Cannabis Control Commission for a licensing application. Gomes said he hopes to release more information on the company’s plans in Westport, once those matters are addressed.
According to Gomes’ letter sent to the Planning Board, the plans would include demolishing the abandoned home on site and constructing a facility where retail pot would be grown, sold on site and sold to other legally licensed state sellers.
Town Administrator Timothy King mentioned that Tree Beard is on the Board of Selectmen’s March 16 agenda. At that meeting, the company will seek a letter of non opposition from selectmen and possibly detail plans for a host agreement.
Reached recently, Corey said that Coastal Healing is conducting a traffic study, which he hopes is completed and presented to the Planning Board at the March 24 meeting.
Corey told the Planning Board at the Feb. 25 meeting that traffic study will assume that Coastal Healing will be involved in selling both recreational and medical marijuana.
On April 21, the Planning Board will continue the hearing with Coastal Healing. Corey invited the Planning Board to join the company for a tour of a facility in Brockton.
At Coastal Healing’s initial site plan and special permit hearing last fall, Corey unveiled a building footprint that would be 10,000 square feet, in addition to a 3,400-square-foot, second-floor mezzanine for office and employee uses.
At the December hearing, Corey added that visits there would be by appointment only. He mentioned that there would be heavy video surveillance and two security guards on duty at all times. All video footage, inside and outside the building, would be available on a Cloud network and be accessible for 90 days, Corey said.
During his initial meeting with selectmen in 2017, he guaranteed that the town would net $185,000 in revenue per year from Coastal Healing.
Originally, Coastal Healing had planned to renovate the three-bedroom home on site, and use it as a utility and storage area. Planning officials recommended demolishing it and building a steel structure, which would match the appearance of Mid-City Steel and other commercial buildings on State Road.
Coastal Healing received a non-opposition letter from selectmen in early 2018. Xiphias Wellness, now owned by Nature’s Medicines, also received a letter of non-compliance in late 2017.
Xiphias Wellness at that time had proposed transforming an existing commercial building at 260 State Road, adjacent to the Coastal Healing property, into a marijuana facility.
Reached by phone, an employee at the Nature’s Medicine dispensary on Globe Street in Fall River said he believes the company has lost interest in the Westport location. Company representative Steve Borges could not be reached for comment.
Nadine Castro, an assistant town planner, confirmed this week that Nature’s Medicines has not filed an application.
Right now, it appears that Coastal Healing LLC and Tree Beard are the only entities seeking to develop a marijuana facility.