After 3 meetings, zoning board officials OK second pot dispensary at Sugarloaf Shoppes in Whately

  • The site of the two marijuana facilities at the old Sugarloaf Shoppes. The red building is ToroVerde while the gray building is DMCTC. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 10/9/2021 10:19:06 AM

WHATELY – After three months of debating the parking capacity of the former Sugarloaf Shoppes, the Zoning Board of Appeals has approved Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers’ (DMCTC) special permit for a retail marijuana dispensary at 424 State Road, Unit B.

Concerns about parking from ToroVerde, another dispensary permitted to operate in Unit A, forced the ZBA to table the matter twice in as many months. The focal point of the issue is both DMCTC and ToroVerde are planning to lease out additional office or retail space, which could further strain the limited parking capacity of 87 parking spaces.

At the end of September’s meeting, ToroVerde and DMCTCs’ lawyers met with ZBA Chairman Roger Lipton, who is also an attorney, to submit an agreement of facts to Town Counsel David Doneski, of Northampton-based KP Law.

Town Counsel’s opinion ruled a permit could be issued to DMCTC without violating the parking provision in the town’s bylaw, thus clearing the major roadblock that had stopped the ZBA from voting at previous meetings.

Lipton said town counsel’s opinion made it clear the bylaw’s only concern currently permitted uses and not potential future uses of space.

“We recognize as a board we are not bound by town counsel’s opinion,” Lipton said. “I believe that our town counsel’s opinion was on point with my thought process last time when I said we were going to focus on what we have in front of us today.”

At September’s meeting, ToroVerde’s attorney, Richard Evans, noted the Sugarloaf Shoppes were built without enough parking spaces to begin with and that should be remedied before anything else. He said approving DMCTC’s permit will strain the already limited number of parking spaces and make future leasing difficult.

“Counsel just ignores the underlying problem here … it instead treats the consequences of that failure and not the failure itself,” Evans said at Thursday’s meeting. “It’s going to create a mad competition for the 30-odd spaces that remain.”

Isaac Fleisher, a Bacon Wilson P.C. attorney representing DMCTC, said town counsel’s opinion showed DMCTC’s application fit the standards set forth by the town. He added the ZBA needs to only consider the current uses of the building, which is ToroVerde’s permit.

“The plain meaning of that is if the special permit applicant can show there is sufficient parking for their use and … they won’t exceed parking requirements for the whole site when combined with the other uses,” Fleisher said. “In the case at hand, there are no other current uses, certainly not in building B and not in the whole condominium.”

DMCTC is permitted for 3,100 square feet of retail marijuana use while ToroVerde is permitted for 5,000 square feet. Both units are more than 8,000 square feet in total, but any additional uses — other than office space — would require another special permit, which the ZBA declared was irrelevant to the application at hand.

“We have to deal with what’s in front of us, and what’s in front of us is 3,100 square feet,” ZBA member Bob Smith said. “ToroVerde is limited to 5,000 square feet … these are facts and that’s what the special permit is for.”

Lipton said there is enough parking for the uses proposed in the application and declared he would vote to approve it.

“I would side in favor of the applicant,” Lipton said, “that there is enough parking for the additional 3,100 square feet of marijuana retail space, so I would be in favor.”

The ZBA — with Fred Orloski voting in the absence of Debra Carney — voted 3-0 to approve DMCTC’s permit.




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