NORTHAMPTON — New England Treatment Access has been given the green light to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Northampton after gaining site plan approval from the Planning Board last week.
The proposed site at 118 Conz St. is the former home of Pioneer Valley Family Medicine, a doctors’ office which moved to King Street in January. NETA hopes to open its dispensary there by October.
NETA principal Kevin Fisher told the board he believes the site, easily accessed from Exit 18 of Interstate 91, “does a great job of providing excellent patient access to our therapies, at the same time balancing some concerns about parking and transportation.” He said the NETA dispensary would be “congruent” with the previous medical use of the site.
Northampton lawyer Ed Etheredge, speaking for NETA, said there would be few changes to the parking lot and exterior of the building, but the interior would undergo significant renovations to meet public health regulations.
Project engineer John Kucich of Bohler Engineering said NETA would add a fence along the perimeter and an enclosure around a trash bin. A section of pavement at the edge of the property will be pulled back to achieve a 10-foot landscaping strip. He said there would be no changes to grades or utilities.
Senior Land Use Planner Carolyn Misch noted the dispensary complies with all aspects of Northampton’s recent medical marijuana zoning ordinance. She said NETA will be required to pay $57,600 into a traffic mitigation fund before it is issued a certificate of occupancy.
“High-volume traffic is the biggest impact,” said Misch. “They’re not going to be growing anything here.”
Misch said the traffic mitigation fee is calculated by subtracting the trips generated by a medical office from those expected from a marijuana dispensary, then applying a formula outlined in the city’s zoning.
Board member Debin Bruce said the planning board’s role in evaluating the marijuana shop’s site plan “is pretty mundane,” noting that traffic won’t be crossing town to access the facility, which has a history of use as a busy office.
The board’s approval of NETA’s site plan was unanimous.
Fisher, Etheredge, NETA’s chief financial officer Arnon Vered, and former Tapestry Health CEO Leslie Laurie were among those assembled at the May 24 hearing. Laurie, who resigned from the financially-troubled Tapestry in January, will be the dispensary’s Director of Patient Services.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Fisher said NETA is still waiting to receive final word on its dispensary license from the state’s Dept. of Public Health. NETA was one of 20 companies approved by the DPH for “provisional registration” in January. Since then there have been administrative and legal delays in issuing the permits after questions were raised about the licensing process.
Even without a state medical marijuana license in hand, Fisher said he’s moving ahead with his plans. New England Treatment Access is constructing a grow room in the town of Franklin and another dispensary in Brookline.
“We’ve already made a significant investment,” said Fisher. “We understand we’re taking a bit of a risk.”
Fisher is owner of Rocky Mountain Remedies, a licensed marijuana business located in Colorado.
Massachusetts’ medical marijuana law, which took effect January 2013, will license up to 35 dispensaries to grow and sell marijuana and its derivatives to qualified patients.
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