FAIRHAVEN – Since opening its doors in February 2018 to become greater New Bedford’s first medical marijuana dispensary, Bask has been a consistent source of tax and host community revenue for the town.
Now, 2 ½ years since opening, Bask is finally ready to take that next big step for its business.
At the July 28 Fairhaven Planning Board meeting, representatives from Bask, via Zoom, officially applied for a special permit with the town for recreational adult-use sales.
“We’re excited for our next chapter for this company, for the staff, and for the community,” said Tim Keogh, president of Bask.
As explained during the initial presentation, it’s been a long journey for Bask to get to this point, with predictions being underestimated as to when it would finally come before the Planning Board for its special permit.
In 2018, the town placed a moratorium on recreational cannabis sales until it could enact a proper zoning bylaw through a special town meeting vote that November which gave town boards more control over the industry within town limits.
The Select Board granted a new host community agreement with Bask in January 2019 for adult-use sales, but it would be a full year, this year, before the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) approved a provisional license for the company.
Planning and Economic Development Director Paul Foley explained to the board that Bask still has a final permit to be approved by the CCC once it is granted a special permit from the Planning Board.
“Bask has been operating without incident or complaint. We have shown it’s a good corporate citizen that has helped a lot of patients,” said attorney Robert B. Feingold.
As explained during the presentation, no major construction or environmental changes are being proposed for Bask’s building, located at 2 Pequod Road, adjacent to the Post Office Annex. The modifications discussed for having a dual medicinal-recreational sale facility are separate entrances, additional point-of-sale terminals, and extra security and surveillance measures.
One big change being proposed by Bask is to change its operating hours from 10 am. to 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
With the adult-use store, Bask plans on hiring 30-35 more employees. Representatives for Bask stated they plan on keeping everything as local as possible by prioritizing the hiring of Fairhaven residents for its operations.
Fairhaven will receive 3% of gross sales as a community impact fee, as well as an additional 3% in revenues from sales tax. An example given was if Bask grossed $3 million in recreational sales in one year, the town would get $180,000 in combined community fees and sales taxes.
The biggest concerns the entire Planning Board conveyed during this hearing were traffic and parking.
“My only true concern with this project is we should be prepared for when it’s more successful than they’re projecting,” said Foley, adding that he sees Bask as an easy facility to reach for people heading up to the Cape, or as an alternative to the Verilife dispensary in Wareham.
Initial figures presented during the hearing by Foley showed that recreational sales could bring as much as 400 additional customers per day to Bask.
Keogh sakd he doesn’t see that amount being a regular occurrence after the first few weeks due to the changing landscape of the marijuana industry over the past few years. He brought up dispensaries in Wareham and Fall River when they first opened in early 2019 and how “there were frenzies when they first opened. People coming in on shuttle buses. No question about that.”
Keogh explained that in the last year and a half, the industry has been flooded with more dispensaries and businesses seeking licenses. “It’s a different environment now. There are so many storefronts emerging,” he said.
Keogh added that at the current trajectory with the final permitting processes, the earliest Bask would be able to start recreational sales would be November/December this year.
Foley and Feingold said they believe the location can handle the increased traffic as it’s far away enough from the Alden Road-Bridge Street intersection to avoid causing road congestion. “The location is a perfect fit for the business. It’s tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the industrial zone,” Feingold said.
Parking is the biggest sticking point for much of the Planning Board. Officials are worried about the initial surge of business when recreational sales start and the area not being able to handle the volume of cars.
Keogh said that Bask more than exceeds the minimum parking requirement in the town’s marijuana district zoning bylaw, and that an analysis of foot traffic in his business and other dispensaries gives the average retail time per customer at 12 minutes.
Some board members were not convinced.
“We’re probably underestimating this location’s needs. I see a lot of problems with parking and I’m concerned with what the trigger would be for more parking,” said board member Jeffrey Lucas.
“I don’t want to put draconian conditions on a special permit, but this is an unusual permit. My objection is you’re comparing apples to oranges. Medical and retail marijuana are different facilities. This is a different type of operation. What you’ve done correctly in the past may not work in the future,” said member Wayne Hayward.
Gary Souza, head of security for Bask, explained that the company will hire an off-duty detail officer to oversee traffic going in and out of the parking lot for at least the first few weeks. There will also be security agents at both entrances and in the parking lot to assist the officer.
Hayward said he was worried about traffic backing up on Alden Road turning onto Pequod Road, as well as people trying to park on Alden Road. He was adamant that Bask have an overflow parking plan in place before the board considers granting a special permit. “We need to know now. If it’s not contained in your lot, you have no further options,” he said.
Steve Gioiosa, and engineer hired by Bask, gave additional parking options along sections of the perimeter of the property. “I think we can demonstrate and show on the plan those temporary and future spaces if the operation warrants it. We have land that can be set aside for future activity to address this immediate concern,” he said.
Several Board members insisted that there be an official overflow parking plan presented to the board and put on record before it can decide on the special permit. This bothered Keogh who said Bask couldn’t move forward on the state level without first getting the special permit.
“We don’t want it to be a nuisance to the town and the businesses thriving in the industrial zone. The issue is the ‘what if.’ The perfect storm. We just need a plan in place. Plan for the worst, but hope for the best,” said John Farrell Jr., the Planning Board chair.
The Planning Board voted to grant a continuance for the public hearing on August 11.