WOOLWICH — Woolwich selectmen unanimously approved Seagrass, the town’s first recreational marijuana cultivation enterprise, Monday.

Seagrass founders Stephen Elie and Edward Ney plan to open a 7,000-square-foot facility on a 4.2-acre plot at 46 Sam Moore Road. The greenhouse will be set back about 300 feet from the road. Construction is expected to begin in the spring or summer.

Elie said the goal is to “keep a low profile.” It won’t have signs posted, the building will be made to look like a barn to fit in with local buildings and trees buffer any noise.

“We’re right next to the CMP power corridor, we thought we couldn’t get better than that in terms of property selection,” said Elie. “We’re willing to do what needs to be done to be accepted by the community and to operate in a way that is safe and unimpactful.”

Resident Jennifer Ritch-Smith sounded skeptical at Monday’s select board meeting.

“What kind of business or what happens to these kinds of business that makes people want to hide them unlike they’d hide a horse farm or an apple orchard or a dairy farm?” asked Ritch-Smith.

“The cash value of the crop is probably what would make it an attractive target for professional criminals,” Elie responded. “Why do we need the attention? Why do we want to notify people that there’s something there that they might want to steal? Our business operation doesn’t require that.”

Although about four residents voiced questions or concerns about the business, Selectperson Allison Hepler said the board approved the business because “this is something that townspeople voted in favor of, so we’re trying to honor that decision.”

Residents voted 140-46 to allow recreational marijuana cultivation facilities in Woolwich at an August 2020 town meeting. Opponents were, and continue to be, concerned about increased traffic and possibility of crime.

Vicki Soule, a resident on Sam Moore Road, said she fears the business will “bring a whole bunch of people we don’t want in our neighborhood.”

“We’ve lived there for over 20 years and it’s a lovely place to live,” Soule said. “I don’t think it’s going to be as secure as they think it’ll be.”

Security cameras and silent alarms will surround the building, Elie said. Should anyone try to break into the facility, Elie said the alarm will notify the owners and local police, but should not disturb neighbors.

Elie said the greenhouse is not a retail facility, so neighbors shouldn’t notice increased traffic beyond the business’ three to four full-time employees and 14 to 15 part-time employees.

Should the new business create problems in the community, Hepler said the board will consider that when the business needs to renew its local license next year.

The greenhouse will open, contingent on Woolwich receiving copies of the owners’ ID cards and a permit application for the building, according to Hepler. Though the town has two medical marijuana stores on Route 1, this will be its first recreational marijuana manufacturing facility.

According to Elie, the business plans to donate 3-5% of its net profit to the town to be used as it sees fit.

“Our desire to do something more than just be a company for profit,” he said. “We feel like if we can make a difference in this community and give something back because you gave us the opportunity to participate in this new industry, then that’s fair.”

UPCOMING MARIJUANA VOTE

Hepler said Woolwich residents will also vote to approve a wording change in one of the recreational marijuana ordinances. The change will allow non-residential farms, such as Seagrass, to open in the town’s rural district.

Bill Longley, a member of the town’s marijuana ordinance committee, said the wording change does not change the rule, but “clarifies the will of the people from the vote last August.”

Ritch-Smith spoke in opposition of the change and said the change will “have a dramatic impact on residents.”

“When you have a business that nobody lives at and is just a commercial, for profit business, my fear is that the people running the business will be concerned with profits and won’t be concerned with the residential atmosphere of the people living around it,” she said.

That rule change will go to vote next month.


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