Hopkinton Zoning Board upholds denial of pot grower’s application

Hopkinton Zoning Board upholds denial of pot grower’s application

The Westerly Sun

HOPKINTON — The Zoning Board rendered its decision Thursday to uphold the denial of an application by Gregory Cooper of Cann Cure Inc. to build a hydroponic medical marijuana growing facility in a residential zone.

Cooper applied to the town last March to grow medical marijuana in a 5,000-square-foot building that would be built on a 60-acre property at 0 Wich Way, near the Connecticut border. The property is in an RFR 80, or residential zone, where agriculture is also permitted.

In April, deputy building and zoning official Sherri Desjardins denied the application based on the classification of marijuana as “drugs, chemicals and allied products,” which are not permitted in residential zones.

Cann Cure, represented by attorney Patrick J. McBurney, appealed Desjardins’ decision. McBurney’s appeal was based on the argument that growing marijuana is cultivating plants, which in turn should be considered as agriculture. He also noted that the facility would not constitute a wholesale operation, since it would be selling to state-licenced compassion centers, of which there are only three.

However, board members said they were concerned about the precedent that would be set if they upheld Cann Cure’s appeal, and the possibility that overturning the zoning official’s decision would open the floodgates to marijuana growers in residential zones throughout the town.

The board’s decision to deny Cooper’s appeal was unanimous.

“It is our view that to oversimply the manufacture and wholesale distribution of medicinal marijuana to a mere agricultural use by boiling down to its simplest form just because it’s a plant is being extremely irresponsible,” board member Jonathan Ure said. “This is more than just a plant, being a federally controlled substance subject to state regulation and medicinally prescribed.”

Board members also cited the concerns expressed by neighboring homeowners, who said they didn’t want to live next to a large, commercial building with heavy security.

“What was described to us was a commercial-style building with basically maximum security around it,” Ure said. “To put that in a residential zone is totally counterintuitive to what our zoning ordinances are about.”

Board member Daniel Harrington said he was less concerned with the building and more with what was going on inside.

“The structure doesn’t so much bother me. It’s the use/commercial entity,” he said.

“They said it’s like growing lettuce hydroponically,” member Joseph York added. “Well, you don’t need a license for growing lettuce.”

Member Ronnie Sposato pointed out that medical marijuana growing operations, which are allowed in industrial, light industrial and manufacturing zones, are not listed in the town’s comprehensive plan as permitted uses in residential zones.

Ure read the board’s decision.

“Based on the foregoing findings of fact, reasons discussed, testimony heard and documents received, we, the Hopkinton Zoning Board, deny the appeal of the zoning official’s decision denying a permit for this project,” he said.

McBurney said his client would likely appeal the board’s decision.

“We’re disappointed,” he said. “We’re going to explore options that are available to us and a potential appeal to the Superior Court.”




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