• Medical marijuana dispensary gets Montpelier zoning permit
     | November 09,2012

    MONTPELIER — A medical marijuana dispensary that had been negotiating a lease in Waterbury Center now has a Montpelier zoning permit.

    Patients First Inc. has received a conditional use permit for a property that was previously a fitness center off River Street behind The Trading Post furniture store.

    The owner of the building, Jim Barrett, said the group planned to invest $8,000 to $10,000 in security for the facility, from cameras to motion detectors, as part of a full-fledged security effort required by the state. He said Vermont has learned from the mistakes of other states that have opened medical marijuana dispensaries.

    Barrett said the building is at 188 River St. It used to house The Confluence, a fitness center, but has been vacant for about a year. Finkerman’s barbecue restaurant operated there earlier.

    Vermont is allowing up to four medical marijuana dispensaries in the state for patients listed on a state registry.

    The dispensary had been working to lease space at a former floral shop at 2802 Waterbury-Stowe Road near the Cabot Annex Store in Waterbury Center.

    “We’re aware that they were looking at some alternate locations,” said Elaine Nichols, a Stowe attorney who represents the owner of the Waterbury Center property.

    The manager of the dispensary, Stacy Grabowski, did not return a call for comment. In a statement this week, she wrote that the business is still months from opening.

    An open records request by The Times Argus seeking information from the state about the business was partly fulfilled, but the names of board members and contact information was redacted. One email identified the dispensary’s executive director as having a doctorate in plant biology.

    Shayne Lynn, the executive director of the Burlington-based dispensary Champlain Valley Dispensary Inc., has volunteered information about his board members and the location of the dispensary, which will be at Main Street Landing on the waterfront. He also said the marijuana-growing site for that dispensary will be in South Burlington.

    The Public Safety Department, however, has rejected requests to disclose that information to the public, citing an agency rule it created.

    During a meeting of the Public Records Legislative Study Committee in late October, lawmakers discussed how the legislation they created for medical marijuana dispensaries contained certain loopholes. During the meeting, state Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland, said legislators neglected, for example, to realize that if a municipality had no zoning laws, or if a change in a site’s use did not occur, there might be no public notice or hearing about a proposed dispensary.

    The proposed use for the Montpelier site is only a change from personal services to retail sales in a general business zoning district, so it did not go before the Zoning Review Board.

    Zoning permits are public records. Barrett said staff for the dispensary requested that he not comment on the issue.

    The permit for the dispensary was conditionally approved Nov. 1, and it will become effective Nov. 16.

    A lease has not yet been signed, Barrett said.

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