Letter: City should have fought marijuana facility location

To the Editor:
I would like to bring to readers’ attention what appears to be the lack of consideration given to the interests of the residents in the immediate vicinity of the medical marijuana dispensary planned for 255 West River Street in Milford and the process that was kept “below the radar” of most citizens.

While the documented need for medical marijuana is heavy in Fairfield and New Haven counties, why is it that Milford seems to be the one town with two new dispensary sites and a possible third one? One reason is that our zoning rules are among the weakest compared to other surrounding towns. (Or the most generous from the business owner’s perspective.) That is why 9 of the 17 applications the state received were for Milford.

It greatly concerns me that Milford had several opportunities to better protect the interests of its residents, but chose to do nothing. While many other towns passed lengthy moratorium periods, took steps to limit the locations of dispensaries by initiating more restrictive zoning regulations, or simply ban them outright, Milford appears to have done none of these; despite being provided with suggested zoning modifications. Other town’s zoning regulations include greater distances from schools, houses of worship. Despite what the rules say, a marijuana dispensary is not the same as a pharmacy or medical physician’s office. It does not belong across the street from private homes, adjoining private residential property, or next to a school children bus stop. And there is certainly no excuse for allowing two dispensaries within 1.5 miles of each other, when the law itself called for geographic dispersal.

It seems clear Milford put the interests of attracting business ahead of the safety and home values of its residents.

We are not fooled by the reassurances from the business owner (and building owner) who minimizes the expected daily usage and traffic in our neighborhood. There are currently 1,941 registered medical marijuana patients in Fairfield County and 2,141 in New Haven County. In most recent news, we learned that seven additional medical conditions have just been approved for medical marijuana prescriptions. Furthermore, it is common knowledge that unscrupulous physicians are already writing prescriptions for exaggerated claims of PTSD and other similar ailments. Clearly this is just the start. Business will grow as will traffic and undesirable activity in our neighborhood.

So, if it is all “legal” what can we do now?

This is an opportunity for Milford to step up and take action in the interests of its residents. There are numerous free-standing buildings available in our city that are located in commercial areas, safely away from residential neighborhoods. Now is the time for Milford officials to identify some of these potential sites and encourage the current business owners to relocate before the businesses open.

Let’s prove Milford truly cares about its residents.

Jack M. Haas