Zoning permit issued for medical marijuana facility

Following an April 5 Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) vote to approve a site plan to allow a medical marijuana dispensary in a medical office building at 255 West River Street, Stephen Harris, zoning enforcement officer, issued a zoning permit on April 8.

Harris had previously issued a zoning permit on Feb. 23, but Joseph D. Griffith, the director of the Department of Permitting and Land Use, overruled him, writing in a Feb. 23 letter to All Quality Builders of East Haven, that the project needed site plan approval.

Griffith cited Section 3.16.1 of the zoning regulations for the Corridor Design Development District-1 (CDD-1) zone, which lists the permitted uses in the zone and stated that such uses are “subject to Site Plan Approval.”

In an email from Harris to Griffith dated Feb. 23, Harris wrote that he contacted City Planner David B. Sulkis regarding the question of site plan approval. Harris wrote, “He [Sulkis] said it was a long standing practice that existing buildings that only have interior renovations do not need PZB site plan approval.”

Harris then suggested, “It might be a good idea to memorialize that practice by devising site plan approval criteria and revising the text.”

In an April 12 phone call, Griffith indicated the permit that Harris issued on April 8 meets the zoning regulations, allowing the applicant to apply to the Building Department for a building permit. All Quality Builders had not applied for a building permit as of April 12.

The zoning permit is for tenant fit-out, which includes work on partitions, ceilings, flooring, and a handicap-accessible restroom. Once the plans are submitted, the building review process begins that could take up to 30 days before a permit is issued.

While going through the P&Z process, the proposed dispensary, Arrow Alternative Care, which is owned by pharmacist Angelo DeFazio of Canton, appealed Griffith’s decision to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), and was scheduled to appeal before the ZBA on April 12.

However, DeFazio’s attorney Danielle M. Bercury, asked that the appeal be moved to the ZBA’s May 10 meeting. With the zoning permit issuance of April 8, that appeal is essentially a moot point, since the applicant has the approval it requires to apply for a building permit.

In her presentation to the P&Z, Bercury disagreed with Griffith’s decision, saying the regulations do not say a site plan review is needed, since it was a reuse of an existing building. However, she filed the site plan review due to proposed zoning regulation changes that would prohibit a dispensary at that site.

DeFazio is a principal with 255 West River Properties of Cambridge, Mass., which owns the 4,000 square foot office building located on a one-acre parcel, which it purchased on Jan. 6, 2015 for $505,000.

At the April 5 meeting, Bercury said Arrow Alternative Care holds a state license to dispense medical marijuana, and that DeFazio is a pharmacist. She said that the application would restore the existing site plan to allow for a marijuana dispensary. DeFazio said he looked to Milford because it had adopted regulations to allow these facilities.

DeFazio said his plan called for four pharmacy technicians and two pharmacists to work there. He said that security measures are stronger than any required of a pharmacy that sells narcotics.

Since those regulations were adopted, the state has approved two dispensaries for Milford, one Southern Connecticut Wellness and Healing, 318 New Haven Avenue, in a CDD-4 zone near Buckingham Avenue, bordering the Metro North railroad tracks, and Arrow Alternative Care, 255 River Street in a CDD-1 zone just north of Rt. 1.

Jonathan Harris, commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), prior to the P&Z meeting, rejected Mayor Ben Blake’s request to reconsider the license for the facility at 255 River Street, saying Milford’s zoning regulations allowed the use at this location.

Blake expressed concern that the location is near Cornerstone Christian Church, Kumon Math and Reading Center, and on the same street as Mathewson Elementary School, which is one-half mile north of the proposed dispensary.
Revised Regulations Proposed
Following the site plan approval on April 5, the P&Z accepted for review proposed zoning regulations that would restrict the locations of medical marijuana dispensaries. Blake and the Milford Prevention Council, represented by attorney Kevin Curseaden, submitted the proposed changes, which are scheduled for review by the board’s Regulations Subcommittee.

Neighbors of the dispensary and other residents used the proposed regulations as a forum to comment on the dispensary, saying they did not believe the location at 255 West River Street, was appropriate for such a facility, as it is located near a residential area, Cornerstone Christian Church and on the same street as Mathewson School.

Since the site plan review process did not include a public hearing, residents had no opportunity to comment directly on the application. Even if the board were to accept the proposed regulations, that approval would not affect an application submitted under the current regulations.