Westbrook Resident Application to Ban Retail Cannabis to Be Debated June 26
At a Zoning Commission Meeting on May 22, the commission accepted an application from two citizens for a zoning text amendment to prohibit retail cannabis stores in the neighborhood Commercial District (NCD). A public hearing will be held on June 26.
In response to a controversial application that allowed for a retail marijuana store to open in Westbrook, two residents have filed an application for a zoning text amendment so that the use would not be welcome in the NCD.
In July 2022, Westbrook’s Zoning Commission approved regulations that allowed retail marijuana stores by special permit in the neighborhood commercial, turnpike interchange, industrial, and light industrial districts. In January 2023, the commission approved an application from BUDR Holding 3 LLC to open a retail cannabis store at 755 Boston Post Road, which is located in the NCD.
Now, a group called Westbrook Citizens and residents Jack Zamary and David Russell have filed an application with the town that, if approved, would prohibit retail cannabis in the NCD. Westbrook Citizens is described as a group of 30 residents who live in the NCD.
On the application, the applicants stated the reason for their application was a fear that cannabis sales would negatively impact families and children in the area and interfere with the neighborhood’s character.
If the application is approved, it will not affect the previous approval for the business located at 755 Boston Post Road.
Westbrook Zoning Enforcement Officer Steve Hnatuk explained, “This would have no direct effect on the previous approval but would render the prior approval a preexisting non-conforming use.”
The public hearing for the text change opens on Monday, June 26.
The inclusion of marijuana sales in the NCD was initially something that apparently flew under the radar for some Westbrook residents but has turned into a controversy over the last six months.
In 2021, Connecticut legislators passed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana use by adults in the state. The bill left it up to local municipalities to control its sale in each town.
In 2022, when the commission debated retail cannabis regulations, the members tried several times to solicit public opinion, including public hearings and conducting a community survey. However, the zoning commission received little feedback on the topic.
Once the BUDR application was filed in the fall, the public interest increased. Following the approval of the application in January, a group of residents – including Zamary and Russell - filed an appeal of the decision in Middletown Superior Court.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the Commission “acted illegally, arbitrarily, unreasonably” in approving the application. The lawsuit is ongoing, per the state judicial website.
Though the original BUDR application was approved, the applicant will be back before the zoning commission on June 26 as the applicant seeks to modify some of the conditions surrounding the approval.