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09/29/2023 04:48 PM

Westbrook Zoning Extends Cannabis Application Moratorium


The Westbrook Zoning Commission voted on Sept. 25 to extend a moratorium on retail marijuana applications for another six months. The move will give the commission time to study the effects of a retail marijuana store that is anticipated to open early next year.

In July, the commission voted to approve an application from the commission itself for a six-month moratorium that prevents new applications related to retail cannabis sales in town. At a meeting on Sept. 25, commissioners voted to extend the moratorium another six months, effective Feb. 17, 2024. The previous moratorium is set to expire Feb. 18, 2024.

Zoning Commission Chairman Harry Ruppenicker said that he believed the operators of a retail marijuana store set to open at 755 Boston Road are targeting a February or March 2024 opening. By extending the moratorium, Ruppenicker said he hoped the commission would have more time to study the effects on the town of that store opening.

Earlier in 2023, former Westbrook Zoning Enforcement Officer Steve Hnatuk explained the reasoning for the moratorium.

“The application for the moratorium was requested by the Zoning Commission. It will allow the commission time to evaluate the potential impacts of recently approved cannabis retailers in the Town of Westbrook and the State of Connecticut and allow the opportunity to investigate potential revisions to the current regulations should they be necessary.”

The commission approved extending the moratorium by a vote of four to one. Vince Gentile (D) was the lone commission member to vote against the application. Gentile was also the only member to not vote for approving the original moratorium in July. Commission member George Pytlik, Jr. abstained from the vote.

Last year, BUDR Holding 3 LLC was approved to open a retail marijuana shop at 755 Boston Post Road. The property owner is listed as 755 Boston Post Rd LLC. According to records, Nancy Pytlik owns the LLC, and the listed agent is George Pytlik. George Pytlik Jr., an alternate member of the Zoning Commission, has familial connections to the LLC’s ownership but is not directly affiliated with it. Pytlik Jr. was not seated during discussions on the BUDR application and could not vote.

The prospect of the retail marijuana store opening has been a source of controversy for close to a year.

In July 2022, the Zoning Commission debated new zoning regulations for retail cannabis sales, and the members tried several times to solicit public opinion. That included holding public hearings and conducting a community survey. However, the Zoning Commission received very little feedback on the topic and approved the regulations to allow retail marijuana by special permit in the neighborhood commercial, turnpike interchange, industrial, and light industrial districts with little fanfare.

However, in the fall of 2022, BUDR Holding 3 LLC filed the application to open a retail cannabis store at 755 Boston Post Road, and things changed.

Across two public hearings concerning that application, the vast majority of speakers who came in person were against the application. Residents voiced concerns about increased traffic, fear of increased crime, and a negative reputation for the town. Social media comments, on the other hand, were more receptive to the application being approved.

Despite the outcry from citizens, the commission approved the application from BUDR in January. Shortly after that approval, a group of residents filed an appeal of the decision in Middletown Superior Court.

That court case is still pending, according to the state’s judicial website.