Two meetings two weeks apart on two marijuana dispensaries had two different tones with one opposed by neighbors and the other presented before a nearly empty auditorium at City Hall.

The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) voted unanimously at its April 19 meeting to approve a site plan to allow Southern Connecticut Wellness and Healing to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in a commercial building at 318-320 New Haven Ave. The site plan review was not a public hearing, so there was no opportunity for public input.

The building is located near Buckingham Avenue and bordering the Metro North railroad tracks, in the Corridor Design Development District-4 (CDD-4) zone, which permits marijuana dispensaries.

Meanwhile, the board is reviewing proposed updates to its regulations for medical marijuana that could mean these two businesses would be the only dispensaries permitted in Milford. Depending on how the regulations are updated, it could mean these two businesses could become existing, non-conforming uses.

At its April 5 meeting, the P&Z unanimously approved a site plan and granted a zoning permit to Arrow Alternative Care #2 to operate a dispensary in a medical office building at 255 West River St. The building is located in Corridor Design Development District-1 (CDD-1) zone, which permits marijuana dispensaries.

While there was no public hearing on the West River Street plan, about 12 residents spoke at the April 5 public hearing in favor of proposed changes to the zoning regulations that would further restrict the locations of such businesses. In their commentary, the neighbors made reference to the West River Street plan, which they said was too close a church, tutoring center, and Meadowside School.

The April 5 meeting was attended by about 40 residents, as compared to the April 19 meeting that had no one in the audience, other than those there to discuss applications with the board.

Presenting on behalf of Southern Connecticut Wellness and Healing, attorney Max Case said the business would be located at 318 New Haven Ave., Unit B, in a 2,500 sq. ft. office occupied by Foot and Ankle Physical Therapy until June 2015. Case said the facility is more than 300 feet from the nearest school, which is St. Mary’s School on Gulf Street.

Case said this application was “very similar” to the April 5 application at 255 West River St., because both involved refitting the interior of an existing building with no exterior changes other than restriping the parking lot to conform with current regulations for handicapped parking. Case said the New Haven Avenue building has a site plan that was approved Oct. 8, 1986.

“It will be one of nine tenants in the two buildings on the site,” said Case. “Unlike the other application, this will not occupy the entire building.”

Rajesh Patel said he is one of four Connecticut licensed pharmacists who will operate the New Haven Avenue dispensary, saying each has 20 years of experience as a pharmacist. The business will also employ pharmacy technicians. Patients will need to be certified by their doctors, register with the state, and will be seen by appointment only.

Patel said he believed medical marijuana offered therapeutic benefits that could be used “when traditional medications are not effective. Medical marijuana can be a better alternative than higher doses of those medications.”

Patel said medical marijuana could be used with other treatments, including chiropractic, acupuncture, meditation, massage, and yoga.

He said he has met with the staff of the Milford Prevention Council, and the Milford Police Department and pledged to work with them and other community groups to reduce substance abuse and addiction.

In response to board questions, Matt Gifford, regional sales director for Custom Vault Corporation of Bethel, said the facility would have a security system that would sound an alarm if glass were broken or if motion were detected when the facility is closed.

Gifford said security buttons would be used to open and close doors. He also said there would be panic/duress alarms that would be hard wired and staff members would carry wireless versions. All this would connect to a third party monitoring system.

Revised Regulations Proposed

At its April 5 meeting, the P&Z accepted for review proposed zoning regulations that would restrict the locations of medical marijuana dispensaries. Mayor Ben Blake and the Milford Prevention Council, represented by attorney Kevin Curseaden, submitted the proposed changes, which were later reviewed at a special meeting of the board’s Regulations Subcommittee.

Board member John Grant, who is chairman of the subcommittee, said at the board’s April 19 meeting that the subcommittee had referred the regulations to the Planning and Zoning staff for a more detailed review.

“There is a lot of language that needs to be addressed,” said Grant. “We want to come up with language to not allow any additional facilities to come into the city.”