MIDDLESEX — The town has approved a marijuana grow operation for the Vermont Patients Alliance (VPA).
The town’s planning and zoning boards approved a proposal by landowner Kingsbury Companies, LLC, to subdivide a 9-acre parcel of land off Center Road to allow VPA to build an 8,408-square-foot processing building, a 4,000-square-foot office and laboratory wing and 9,450-square-feet of greenhouses.
The new industrial-scale operation is part of the medical marijuana dispensary operated by the Vermont Patients Alliance in Montpelier. It is one of four dispensaries across the state — the others are in Burlington, Brattleboro and Brandon.
The dispensaries are part of a state-run marijuana registry created in 2011 to allow the sale of medical marijuana to people with serious illnesses. Different derivatives of marijuana have been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of cancer, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.
However, officials involved in the new grow operation in Middlesex stressed that there will not be a dispensary onsite.
“It’s just a grow facility; there’s no dispensary,” said Dean Zoecklein, operations manager for Kingsbury Companies. “I bring that up because that’s an important distinction as part of the permit.”
Zoecklein also noted that the grow operation would not be on land owned by Kingsbury Companies after it sub-divided its Middlesex property and sold a 3-acre lot to a company associated with Vermont Patients Alliance.
The application for the grow operation was submitted in May to both the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Adjustment seeking conditional use of the site in a mixed-use district. A permit was issued in October.
Minutes from the August ZBA meeting note that board member Dan Crisp reported that licensure requirements for marijuana dispensaries in the state is “an extremely thorough and lengthy process. Members expressed satisfaction with documentation previously received.”
Fellow board member John Demeter “states he feels the applicants — KCOS and VPA in particular — made a thorough and well-thought out presentation of their vision for this project. Others agreed that concerns raised were addressed and alleviated,” the minutes added.
A straw poll indicated support for the project, and the ZBA voted unanimously to approve the project with conditions, the minutes said.
Conditions set by the Planning Commission included: the combined total number of employees at both businesses on the site shall not exceed 60 employees; the VPA facility shall ensure stormwater does not impact neighbors; and VPA is encouraged to explore energy-saving opportunities with its utility company and Efficiency Vermont.
“As part of the lot sale, there’s a little bit of work to prepare the site,” Zoecklein said. “There will most likely be a closing after Dec. 15 and VPA may or may not elect to start (construction) in January.”
A representative for VPA could not be reached for comment.