RECAP: Millbury Planning Board - 9/26/22

RECAP: Millbury Planning Board - 9/26/22
Mike St. Onge speaks on behalf of Wonderland Cannabis Company at the September 26, 2022 Planning Board meeting. Image courtesy Millbury Cable Access.

The Millbury Planning Board met on September 26, 2022. Richard Gosselin, Paul Piktelis, Bruce DeVault, Terry Burke Dotson, and Francis DeSimone present.

There was a public hearing regarding Wonderland Cannabis Company's special permit for a marijuana dispensary at 11 McCracken Road. Mike St. Onge of Grafton, co-owner, represented Wonderland. He highlighted that it's a "family business" as he introduced his wife, son Eric, daughter Olivia, and Jackie, the compliance officer.

Mike St. Onge explained how they ended up in Millbury. Understanding that the 146 corridor where marijuana sales are allowed is geographically narrow, they identified the space on McCracken Road and began the process. The space will have 1,600 square feet of retail space and 800 feet of consulting space.

"Marijuana has many different things it can do for you, many medical things," citing post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, and other options. The consulting space will allow people to have a discreet place to get information.

Mike St. Onge also provided information on the security and protections. Along with information on cameras, they discussed internal security, tracking, and purchase limits. The building includes a vault where the marijuana is stored.

"[Massachusetts security regulations] are stronger than any bank..." said Mike St. Onge. "Security is unbelievable from these operations."

Fran DeSimone asked whether there would be a metal detector; Wonderland responded that it was "possible." DeSimone then asked if there would be anyone licensed to carry, but Wonderland noted that firearms are illegal in dispensaries.

Terry Burke Dotson asked whether people could consume on the site, and Wonderland confirmed that state law does not allow consumption in the dispensaries. Olivia St. Onge added that the state only allows one ounce to be purchased per day tracked by Massachusetts State ID, and each purchase has a barcode tied to the purchaser.

"It's more regulated than alcohol," Olivia added. "I will say that."

Bruce DeVault asked about their location in the lot, and Wonderland confirmed that they will be in the front of the property next to AAA Fleet. The AAA parking area will be moved to the side to allow for dispensary parking in the front of the building, exceeding the requirements set by regulation.

"We anticipate five cars an hour," said Eric St. Onge, with an expectation of 45 cars per day. DeSimone asked whether there could be a right-turn only to divert traffic from Greenwood Street, but this would be a town issue.

Fran DeSimone asked about fire suppression activity. The building used to be a lumber company, and is not currently equipped with sprinklers. State code is fairly broad, and Mike St. Onge believes Wonderland will operate under the square footage necessary for a sprinkler addition.

Richard Gosselin offered a list of requests to Wonderland. He asked whether a fence existed on the property plans, and Olivia St. Onge noted that it would need to be discussed with the fire chief, who requested for full access. He also requested that the front area remains open and free from trees and bushes, and raised snow removal concerns.

Mike St. Onge also gave information on a lot of the waivers requested. He noted that the building is old, and much of it is unchanged. Gosselin requested a survey of the property (and Wonderland legal counsel Jim Valeriani confirmed a survey exists going back to the 1940s), but Town Planner Connor McCormack noted that Millbury's zoning bylaws are not set up well for a special permit for a dispensary as a tenant. Gosselin responded with a request for an engineering plan. While Valeriani explained some of the plans, Gosselin held his ground, citing the expansion at the mall.

"We're gonna need an engineering plan," Gosselin said, noting that state plans do not go into the level of detail he's seeking. "The money you spend [on a survey and engineer] will be far less than you digging... we need an engineering plan of the outside of the area."

The building owner spoke against the need for a survey, noting that there is no change to the exterior, simply a change of tenancy. He noted that no other business is asked to do this, citing projects in Millbury Center and the Shoppes at Blackstone Valley, but Gosselin ended that line of discussion.

"Don't keep going on and on about it, but when it comes to a vote, I'm warning you..." Gosselin said. "I need something stamped by all three professions so the town can rely on the stamps."

Rocco Frangello, representing F&G Trucking, spoke concerning his business. "We run an active job site next door," he said, citing safety concerns if someone were to end up on his property. Eric St. Onge noted that there is signage and fencing, and understands it's an concern.

Gosselin asked whether there would be any noise or smell, and Eric St. Onge noted that Wonderland is not in the business of cultivation and there will be no smell to handle.

Terry Burke Dotson asked how far from the school the building is, Mike St. Onge responded that they are well beyond the 500 feet required by the state.

The Planning Board closed in saying that their requests are "for your protection as much as ours," and the meeting was continued to October 24 at 7:15 pm.

The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) zoning guidelines were updated and released last month. McCormack noted that there were "no significant changes" that impacted Millbury, and that the state requires an action plan in the next few months and revised zoning rules by 2024.

The guidelines suggest that the new zoning be in a downtown or walking area, which limits such an area to the center of Millbury, and there's an opportunity to simply adjust the zoning in the area to be multi-family properties "by right" as opposed to single-family buildings and be in compliance. DeSimone noted that the "by right" zoning bothers him, and McCormack noted that all permits would come before the board.

Dotson used this time as an opportunity to discuss the building moratorium originally discussed for the last town meeting. She noted that there was never a hearing for the last meeting. She wanted to know about the hearing for this meeting, and McCormack pointed out that it is not on the warrant for the upcoming special town meeting. DeSimone noted that a petition is circulating, and they need 250 signatures.

Gosselin noticed that Town Manager Sean Hendricks was on Zoom, and he requested his input. Hendricks noted that the application for the spring meeting was retracted, which is why a hearing never occurred. The deadline for petitions for the warrant was last week.

Dotson asked what the town would lose out on without a plan, and McCormack noted that the town would no longer qualify for Housing Choice, MassWorks Housing Production grants, or the Local Capital Projects Fund. Millbury received $1.4 million from MassWorks as part of the Downtown Revitalization.

DeSimone asked how the MBTA zoning rules define the different areas. He asked why some of the cities near Boston or Martha's Vineyard aren't involved, but McCormack noted that all the municipalities near MBTA stops are subject to the law.

"The minimum is 750 [units]... under the guidelines," said McCormack. He reiterated that the guidance was sent to the Planning Board.

Dotson used Cobblestone Village as an example with 72 units, and asked people to visualize multiplying that by ten, and that's what people would build, but McCormack corrected her and noted that no building is required by this. Dotson then said that she believed the buildings would not be subject to height requirements and other rules, but McCormack confirmed that any building would come in front of the board.

Dotson then shifted to the working group to brainstorm modernizing the zoning bylaws, arguing that there is a group meeting "over the phone" instead of in public, but Gosselin (who is part of the working group) stopped the discussion citing its relevance. McCormack noted that anyone who would like to see more information can reach out to their office.

Dotson asked who would be developing the MBTA zoning, and McCormack reiterated that any plans would go to the Planning Board and then town meeting.

Other topics discussed:

  • The Planning Board held a public hearing on a project at 31 Tainter Hill Road. Terry Burke Dotson asked whether the water runoff from the project would impact the new Shaw School, but it was confirmed that there would be no issues. The Planning Board ultimately approved the project unanimously.
  • McCormack gave an update on the punchlist items for 12 Latti Farm Road, and there was a request to release the performance guarantee. This is the marijuana cultivator property, GreenCare Collective.
  • Bob Simmler of 8 Grove Street spoke on the design of the new municipal parking lot. Among his concerns on the parking lot is the net loss of one parking space, the assessor's map was used to define the area, what the benefit to the town is, and about patio space. Part of the reconstruction will be a concrete sidewalk expansion and some street trees, but will not be a patio. McCormack also believes there will not be a loss of parking spaces. ¬†Simmler later noted he recommended that the "patio" and green spaces be removed, and argued that the plan that restricts Grove Street development but not Elm Street is unfair.

    Discussion about some of the parking behind Whitney Insurance and who benefits; McCormack noted that the grant the work is funded under allows for private-public partnerships, and the spots in question shifted from perpendicular to angled. Dotson asked why we couldn't ask the state to change the plan, but Gosselin shot the idea down, noting that the plan was already approved.

    Discussion continued for more than 30 minutes on various topics surrounding the municipal lot.
  • Dotson raised the point that she cannot access the Sharepoint site, but can access her email, and requested that she receive documentation outside of Sharepoint.

The meeting adjourned at 9:26pm.