RICHMOND — A group of residents is fighting an application by CANN Cure Cultivation LLC, of South Kingstown, and CTG Properties LLC, to build a medical marijuana-growing facility at 285 Arcadia Road. The proposed 11,400-square foot facility would be built on a wooded 5-acre lot.
Heidi Edwards, whose house is next to the lot, has launched a grass-roots campaign to fight the proposal. She has lobbied town officials and started a petition that has collected several hundred signatures.
Edwards found out about the proposal just two weeks ago.
“I found out from my neighbor, and he called me two weeks ago saying, ‘Hey, guess what’s going next to you,’” she said.
CANN Cure submitted a pre-application for development plan review to the town Planning Board at its Jan. 8 meeting. The proposal recorded in the minutes of that meeting describes the facility as “an 11,415 square foot indoor horticulture facility encompassing approximately 2 acres’ limit of disturbance, with related access, parking, grading, soil erosion and sedimentation control measures, stormwater drainage structures and best management practices" and well, septic system, and utilities.
The land is in an R-3 residential district, where horticulture, including the cultivation of medical marijuana, is a permitted use.
Edwards and other neighbors have expressed strong objections to the proposal. They point out that there already is a new marijuana-growing facility owned by 66 Kingstown LLC just a few miles away in the Route 138 commercial district.
They said they were also concerned that traffic on Arcadia Road will increase, that neighborhood children would be near a building that contains marijuana, and that the operation would require so much water that it might stress nearby wells.
“Our area has an aquifer, so the concerns with that are that the amount of water needed to run this large-scale operation could drain our wells, because they could be taking a lot of water from the aquifer, more so than the area can handle,” Edwards said. ”Originally, that land was just going to have just a three-bedroom house." The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, she said, approved a well and septic system suitable only for a three-bedroom house.
CANN Cure owner Gregor Cooper told members of the Planning Board that he had been issued a certificate from the Zoning Board confirming that indoor cultivation was a permitted use at the site. With a plan and site engineering completed, Cooper was requesting feedback from the Planning Board before investing further in the project.
CANN Cure attorney Ben Rackliffe said the residents' resistance was not unexpected.
"It's anticipated that there would be a degree of opposition to these operations anywhere, and a lot of it has to do with misconceptions of what's going to be taking place on the property itself," he said. "From a vantage point of this business locating within Richmond, it's not going to increase traffic or congestion. This is not an operation that will serve consumers directly. These are wholesale operations to the three state-sanctioned dispensaries."
While members of the Planning Board acknowledged that indoor cultivation was a permitted use, they expressed doubts about the compatibility of such a facility in a neighborhood of single-family homes.
Planning Board member Mark Trimmer said the board had also told Cooper that the loading and pickup areas would have to be reconfigured. “They don’t want the pickup door on the same side as a residential house,” he said.
Edwards said that she and her husband bought their house because they wanted to live in a peaceful, rural neighborhood. She said she is worried that trucks and other traffic would change the atmosphere.
“This area is so quaint,” she said. “Something like this building going in isn’t going to be within the character of this area.”
Hopkinton said no
In 2017, CANN Cure was unsuccessful in an application to grow medical marijuana in Hopkinton, in a 5,000-square-foot building that would have been built on a 60-acre property at 0 Wich Way, near the Connecticut border.
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 appealed the decision, arguing that the cultivation of plants should be considered as agriculture, which is permitted in the town's RFR-80 zone.
Zoning Board board members denied the appeal, citing the precedent that might be set if they upheld it, as well as the possibility that overturning the zoning official's decision would open the floodgates to marijuana growers in residential zones throughout Hopkinton.
Rackliffe said Richmond was more conducive to his client's proposal.
"Rather than fight with Hopkinton, we found a viable site in Richmond that we feel will work properly for business reasons," he said."The stage that we're in is to determine whether the building and ancillary parking areas comply with local planning regulations, and it's not to determine whether it's permitted or not, because the town has already certified that it is."
Trimmer said he didn’t want Richmond to become known for marijuana growing.
“My biggest concern is it becoming what our town is known for and I don’t know if it’s legal or not, but I think there needs to be some sort of moratorium on these kinds of things," he said. "I’d rather see businesses that would benefit everyone.”