Brandon marijuana dispensary clears another hurdle

BRANDON — A settlement has been reached regarding a proposed medical marijuana dispensary in Brandon after neighboring landowners appealed a local permitting decision to the state’s Environmental Court.
The settlement clears the way for Vermont’s third permitted and licensed medical marijuana facility in a 6,700-square-foot building on Lovers Lane.
The July 31 settlement document obtained by The Reporter features 10 conditions set forth by the court that bolster the ventilation requirements, hours of operation restrictions, contact information and access by police and fire officials.
One major concern of neighboring property owners and appellants Pete and Patty Smith and Joanne Nichols was the proximity of school children in the area to the facility. According to the settlement, the hours of operation for the dispensary will be limited as follows:
•  It will not be open on Sundays.
•  It will only be open for five hours on Saturdays.
•  No appointments will be scheduled with clients after 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
•  There will be two, 30-minute periods each day, in the morning and in the afternoon, when school buses are running on Lovers Lane during which the dispensary will not schedule appointments with clients.
Other conditions include:
•  An alarm system triggered by interior motion detectors will sound at the Brandon Police Department, if Brandon police accept that condition. If not, the alarm will sound with the Vermont State Police, if the state police accept the condition.
•  At no time will there be any restriction whatsoever regarding access to the premises by appropriate fire, police and ambulance services.
•  Compliance with applicable state Act 250 noise standards as measured outside of the Nichols and the Smith residences.
•  Four cupola fans will not operate after 8 p.m.
•  Charcoal filters will be installed to filter air pumped to the outside of the building.
•  Motion-sensitive lights with two floodlights will be installed to illuminate the parking area. An administrative amendment to the existing Act 250 permit may be required for this condition.
•  A wooden privacy fence will be constructed at or near the Nichols property line. It will be approximately  5 feet, 11 inches high and 150 feet long.
•  A representative of Rutland County Organics, the company proposing the dispensary, shall be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to any emergency related to the premises.
Nichols and the Smiths appealed the Brandon Development Review Board’s March 7 approval of a change of use application for Alexandra Ford and Rutland County Organics for the building at 84 Lovers Lane. The property, owned by Chuck Mitchell, is in the Rural Development zone and was permitted for light wood manufacturing. The DRB approved a change of use to a licensed medical marijuana dispensary and manufacturing facility.
All appeals of local permitting decisions go before the Vermont Environmental Court. To overturn the DRB’s decision, the appellants would have had to prove that the dispensary would have adverse effects on the building, the character of the area, traffic, local bylaws and ordinances, and impacts under the Act 250 land use law.
A call to the Smiths regarding reaction to the settlement was not returned by press time. Alex Ford, owner and operator of Rutland County Organics, called the conditions of the settlement “very reasonable.”
“We just felt it was in everyone’s best interest to make things as reasonable as possible,” she said in an Aug. 9 phone interview. “We’re very pleased and very happy. It worked out just beautifully.”
The Vermont Medical Marijuana law of 2004 allows for up to four dispensaries statewide to serve almost 500 patients on the state registry. There are currently two dispensaries permitted and operating, one in Burlington and one in Waterbury. There are almost 200 patients on the state registry living in four southern counties of Vermont who are unable to access the more northern dispensaries.
By law, a patient must suffer from a “debilitating medical condition” in order to qualify for the medical marijuana registry. State law allows patients suffering from illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, HIV, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, wasting disease, or Parkinson’s disease to access medical marijuana in order to alleviate their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Patients must have the approval of a physician they have been seeing for at least six months, who authorizes the use of medical marijuana for the patient once all other avenues have been exhausted. Patients must be screened by the Department of Public Safety, submit to a background check and agree to no-knock searches by law enforcement before being accepted onto the state registry.
The dispensaries operate under the authority of the state Department of Public Safety.
Ford could not say exactly when the dispensary would be up and running, but expressed her satisfaction with the settlement.
“We want to have a good feeling in Brandon,” Ford said. ‘It’s been great, and we want to keep it that way.”

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