January 28, 2023

Retail pot shop goes back before Brunswick Planning Board on Tuesday

BRUNSWICK — A business hoping to become Brunswick’s first retail marijuana store will go back before the planning board Tuesday evening after a previous attempt proved unsuccessful due to an oversight in the town’s zoning. 

Plans for the store have remained the same since first presented to town officials in February. 

Michael DiPersia, representing GJoris LLC, wants to build a 3,100-square-foot, single-story recreational marijuana retail store in the Brunswick Industrial Park.

DiPersia and Joseph Marden, project manager with civil engineering and surveying firm Sitelines, said the yet-to-be-named store, located at 4 Business Parkway, will be designed to have a “destination retail feel.”

The project will go to a public hearing on Tuesday and the planning board is scheduled to decide on the conditional use permit and final development review immediately afterward. 

The project proposes 64 parking spaces, with the option to add 18 more later on if needed. 

Planning Director Matt Panfil and other town planning officials have expressed concern that the parking lot includes roughly six times the recommended number of spaces for a lot of that size, but DiPersia and his representation have maintained that if anything, it’s a low estimate. 

Joseph Marden, project manager, said previously that the location, the name of which has not been announced, is expected to be a regional draw, with more out of town customers than local ones. 

The planning board tabled the application in May on the grounds that the establishment would significantly and negatively impact traffic around the proposed site, violating zoning criteria.

According to the ordinance at the time, a proposed use could not create “significantly more vehicular traffic” than the uses currently within 300 feet of the proposed site or create “additional adverse impacts” on any use or structure within the same distance. 

In Brunswick, retail recreational marijuana is only allowed in industrial zones, but according to Matt Panfil, director of planning and development, by nature, any retail store is naturally going to generate more traffic than any industrial use.

Amy Tchao, an attorney representing GJoris LLC, said in an email earlier this spring that the town had made it “functionally impossible” for recreational marijuana sales. 

“Our application was the first of its kind before the Planning Board,” she said, and “exposed this critical and unintended flaw in its permitting process.”

Revisions passed unanimously by the council in August now stipulate instead that traffic will not “be greater than would occur from any uses designated as a permitted use or conditional use within the same zoning district.” 

Under these new rules, GJoris’ estimated 93 and 113 trips per hour fit in with many of the surrounding uses. 

According to Diane Morabito, traffic engineer, LL Bean Manufacturing Center generates 101 trips per hour, Hancock Lumber generates 166, Region 10 Technical School, 79, and the Bath Iron Works Office Building, 123.

Retail opens in Maine

Elevated Remedies of Brunswick, Brunswick’s second medical marijuana storefront, opened just up the road at 14 Industrial Parkway in the summer of 2019, but DiPersia’s project, if approved, will be the town’s first retail site.

Bath’s first recreational marijuana store, Highbrow, received final approval from the city council in March, but was still waiting for state licensure. Highbrow has medical marijuana locations in Topsham, Manchester and Waldoboro. The Leeman Highway location in Bath would be the company’s first foray in recreational marijuana. 

The project in Brunswick returns to the planning board just days after the first round of retail marijuana locations opened in Maine. 

Four years after voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana, years filled with rewrites, vetoes, administrative changes and coronavirus pandemic, the first retail stores opened Oct. 9. 

Nine retail stores are now licensed to sell recreational cannabis in Maine, but only six opened Friday due to a shortage of legally tagged, tested and taxed product, the Portland Press Herald reported. The limited supply drove up prices and forced retailers to enact purchase limits. An eighth of an ounce of smokable bud cost between $55 and $65, but prices are expected to fall as more stores open and more adult-use growers get their licenses.

According to David Heidrich, director of engagement and community outreach for the Office of Marijuana Policy, the six locations reported $94,643.38 in sales on Friday, bringing in $9,464.34 in sales tax for the state. Heidrich said the preliminary data will be updated Tuesday.

The stores that opened Friday are SeaWeed Co. and Theory Wellness in South Portland, Firestorm Cultivation in Bangor, Green Cures in Auburn, Northland Botanicals in Stratton and Sweet Relief Shop in Northport. Three other stores with licenses didn’t open Friday: House of Ganja in Newry, Coastal Cannabis Co. in Damariscotta and Hi-Lo Dispensary, LLC in Poland.

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