A medical marijuana dispensary could be coming to New Haven — specifically to Amity Road — if the state approves an application from a local businessman.
City Plan commissioners in a unanimous vote Wednesday during their regular monthly meeting at City Hall approved the site plan for the proposed dispensary at 129 Amity Rd. at their regular monthly meeting.
In that same meeting, commissioners also approved a site plan for the former home of Delaney’s Restaurant & Tap Room and recommended that the Board of Alders approve a move that would eliminate mini panels and poster signs as permitted uses in the city, basically preventing any more billboards like this one from popping up anywhere else.
The applicant for what would be the first and only marijuana dispensary in New Haven city limits is Glen Greenberg, who also happens to own the popular downtown cigar bar and lounge The Owl Shop.
Greenberg has an agreement to buy a 32,189 square foot parcel on Amity Road, currently home to a 21-space parking lot and three buildings, one of which is a defunct garden center. The site is across the street from the Amity Stop & Shop and is currently owned by the estate of Frank Perrotti Jr. Perrotti, who owned the former 500 Blake Street Cafe in Westville neighborhood and Colonial Tymes on Dixwell Avenue, died in 2016.
Architect Robert Tobin told alders that the plan calls for renovating an existing building in the back of the property and removing the existing single-family house and the greenhouse that now front Amity Road. That area will become parking. The first floor of the remaining building, which is about 3,400 square feet, will be home to the what Tobin initially referred to as a “specialty pharmacy,” avoiding calling it a medical marijuana dispensary.
“It’s not like a CVS,” Tobin said by way of explanation. “It’s not open to the general public. Our clientele, most will be coming to us by appointment only for their initial consultation and in the future, they will already have visited our site and thus be familiar with it.”
Inquisitive Commission Chairman Ed Mattison quickly ferreted out the 411 with one question.
“What’s the specialty?” he asked.
“We’re a medical marijuana distribution facility,” Tobin said. “We’re hoping that we will get a state license for this.”
There was a brief silence from the commissioners, who then got on with the presentation. Tobin said the second floor of the remaining building, which is actually five or six buildings that had been cobbled together over the years, will serve as office space in the future. Once renovated the building will get a common roof and facade. He noted that the building will be fairly non-descript and discrete with minimal signage.
Commissioner and Westville Alder Adam Marchand asked how secure the building would be.
“Because the state is so stringent, the product is brought by a Brinks truck,” Tobin said. “It’s more secure than a bank. It exceeds that of the state banking industry, in detail, with cameras, motion detectors, all kinds of items within building and perimeter so that access is denied, plus inside the building, there is actually a safe room. It’s quite secure, there will be a DEA-certified vault room for the property.
But whether any of that happens, Greenberg told commissioners Wednesday, is contingent upon the state approving his application. Applications were due April 9.
With Yale Medical School, Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Smillow Cancer Hospital within city limits, alternate Commissioner Jonathan Wharton pointed out that New Haven might be a natural choice for a dispensary.
“What do you see as your competition?” Wharton asked. “Milford, I guess…
“There’s one in Milford,” Greenberg said.
“Not that I keep track of where the dispensaries are,” Wharton joked. “Anywhere else beyond that?”
“There’s one in Milford, and one in Branford—unless the state decides to do something different this time around,” Greenberg said. “It depends on how many they want to accept.”
There are currently nine dispensaries in the state including in Milford and Branford. The state is expected to award between three and 10 applications for new medical marijuana dispensaries.
Greenberg told commissioners that he doesn’t know when the state might make its decision. It could take a while considering that the state received more than 70 licensing applications for dispensaries. But Greenberg said he’s anticipating that he’ll hear something back by July or August. He said if the decision is in his favor, shovels can go into the ground and construction is estimated to take about four months.
“I assume because of our location, New Haven is ideal,” Wharton said. “You might get more business than Milford and Branford for that matter.”
Wharton could be right. New Haven County is secondly to Hartford County for the most medical marijuana patients in the state. Of the more than 26,000 registered medical marijuana patients 6,089 of them reside in New Haven County, according to the state Department of Consumer Protection.
Commissioners approved the site plan with the condition that if the state Department of Transportation requires signal changes, Greenberg and his team would have to come back and also with the understanding that any possible changes that might have been approved in the most recent legislative session might also need to be considered.
Acting City Plan Director Michael Piscitelli said under New Haven’s zoning regulations and the state’s own stringent rules for dispensaries the proposed facility meets requirements for a pharmacy.
Greenberg said after the meeting that he became interested in opening a dispensary after watching his mother battling cancer and ultimately dying, in his mind, from the “debilitating effects of treating cancer.” He said he wanted to be involved with something that could be an alternative to treating diseases like cancer without some of today’s aggressive treatments. Greenberg said he chose New Haven because he already works here and he loves the city.
“It seems like the right place to be,” he said. “It’s my community.”