Westerly Planning Board OKs pot grower’s amended plans after rebukes | Westerly


WESTERLY — The Planning Board has approved amended plans submitted by the owner and operator of a medical marijuana growing business in Bradford.

On Tuesday the board unanimously approved the new plans filed on behalf of South County Cultivators Inc. for its Class A facility after a hearing in which one board member and Chief of Police Shawn Lacey delivered strong rebukes of the company, which was issued a cease-and-desist order by Zoning Official Nathan Reichert and Building Official David Murphy in November. The order alleged the company started operating before it had obtained final zoning approval and failed to install a fence around the cultivation building, a condition of earlier approvals by the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Review. The license class pertains to cultivation facilities that are no more than 5,000 square feet in size.

“My concern is that we go through the process of finalizing plans with an applicant who apparently then goes off and does what they wanted and then they come back and try to fix it up,” said Christopher Lawlor, a member of the Planning Board.

The lawyer representing South County Cultivators Inc., Elizabeth Noonan, said her client was trying to address the concerns raised by town officials.

“I represent a lot of developers throughout the state. I understand your frustration. I’m here in an attempt to fix it,” Noonan said, replying to Lawlor.

Rick Comolli, the principal operator of South County Cultivators Inc., and Noonan reviewed the amended plans with the board. They said a fence that the boards requested was installed shortly after the cease-and-desist order was issued. Other items that were required in the original plans but not complied with initially include acquiring a large outdoor trash receptacle and placement of one of the security cameras.

Internal security at the facility includes motion detectors and cameras that track all movement of marijuana in the facility, according to Joseph Trillo of ‎AAA Alarms & Fire Protection of West Warwick, a company hired by South County Cultivators. Trillo said he had worked on several medical marijuana facilities in the state and never encountered one with a fence. Many of the facilities, he said, are in multi-tenant buildings.

The South County Cultivators facility is at the end of a rural dead-end road on property that is bordered by a heavily wooded area where trespassing has been a common occurrence.

The property is owned by the Comolli family’s Westerly Granite Co. Inc. It was the former site of Copar Quarries of Westerly and is now being used for quarrying by a different company and for a solar power array in addition to the medical marijuana endeavor.

Lacey explained that he was not willing to provide a written approval of the company’s plans based on objections he has to the industry. He also questioned why the board would consider approving the amended plans after the company failed to abide by provisions of its original plan.

“The facility has been operating for close to a year and was not in compliance. I don’t understand why the town or the board would agree to any amendments,” Lacey said.

Noonan confirmed the company has been operating and said the company had a legal right to operate after it filed an appeal of the cease-and-desist order.

During the original hearings, Lacey said Tuesday, there was discussion of the company providing a feed of its security cameras to the Westerly Police Department. Lacey said the company never initiated a conversation with police about the idea. Noonan offered to follow up on the camera feed idea and said she had not previously been apprised of the idea.

Justin Hopkins, Planning Board chairman, said he understood the points raised by Lawlor.

“I do share Mr. Lawlor’s frustration with having to go through a remedial application review, however our charge as a Planning Board is to review the application that is in front of us,” Hopkins said.

In addition to approving the amended plans, the Planning Board also voted unanimously to render a favorable advisory opinion to the Zoning Board of Review on South County Cultivators’ application for amended special use and aquifer protection permits. The permits are required in order for the business to receive a zoning certificate, one of the requirements of the license issued by the state Department of Business Regulation.



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