LENOX — The town’s zoning board has cleared the way for the first of only two adult-use recreational marijuana retailers allowed in Lenox.
At a remote meeting Wednesday night, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to approve a special permit and the site plan for hotel entrepreneur Navin Shah’s Krishna Lenox LLC shop in a retail complex opposite the intersection of Pittsfield and Holmes roads. The 439 Pittsfield Road (Route 7 & 20) building is owned by Eric Taylor and also houses Papa John’s pizzeria, Electra Cafe and Berkshire Dogs Unleashed, the newest tenant.
Shah had withdrawn a proposal for his original location at his long-vacant restaurant building at the entrance to the Lenox Commons mixed-use development after opposition surfaced from condo owners at the 55 Pittsfield Road site.
Ahead of a series of votes in favor of the application, ZBA Chairman Robert Fuster Jr. pointed out that Shah had included stringent safeguards to ensure that there would be no marijuana use on-site and that bags containing purchases must be closed, stapled and placed directly into the trunks of customers’ vehicles.
Fuster also cited compliance with an extensive list of town bylaw provisions governing retail cannabis establishments, including a guarantee preventing “a nuisance” to abutters. He also noted that no tenants in the retail complex or other adjacent neighbors had filed any objections.
Acknowledging that all town bylaw requirements had been met, Fuster voiced his approval, as did board members Ned Douglas, Albert Harper, Shawn Leary Considine and Kimberly Duval.
“From a community-needs perspective, I think this proposal excels,” said Duval, the newest ZBA member. “I’m very excited to see this type of establishment go in.” She pointed out that recreational marijuana has been legal in Massachusetts for several years, and that it’s going to be “a huge boon” to the town’s coffers.
“I appreciate that, and I think it’s needed, especially now,” Duval added. “It’s a huge win for Lenox, and I’m glad you guys have been able to find this spot without any contention from the neighbors.”
Leary Considine praised Shah’s petition as “really well-presented, with all the documentation and prior research and planning required for a facility like this, which is the first of its kind in Lenox. So, this is a precedent-setting process we’ve gone through.”
She also noted that “the petitioner’s willingness to relocate when the first site didn’t work out is a testament to his commitment to doing this right. This site works better than that one did.”
Harper described Shah as “a big supporter of Lenox” and thanked him for his “generosity to the community.”
‘A good first for Lenox’
“This is a good first for Lenox,” Harper stated, “and I’m glad he’s taken the time and effort, and the patience he’s shown us in this very protracted, yearlong process.”
“Thank you very much for your time and support,” Shah said, just before the meeting wrapped up.
During the board’s discussion of the application, his local attorney, Andrew Hochberg, presented an update on traffic issues involving the entrance and exit at the cannabis enterprise’s new location.
Hochberg stated that because the heaviest demand for the new marijuana shop would be Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during the day Saturday, traffic would not coincide with peak weekday hours of 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. at the heavily traveled Pittsfield and Holmes road intersection.
According to traffic analyst Stephen Savaria of the civil engineering firm Fuss & O’Neill, a recent five-year state Department of Transportation database on the rate of reported crashes there showed an average of one accident per year. He said about 24,000 vehicles pass the location daily, on average.
“That ends up being a very low rate, well below the regional average for those kinds of intersections,” he said.
Hochberg suggested that a “live monitor” would attend to any parking lot capacity issues at the complex, and that the marijuana store would not cause a significant change in traffic volume.
Final approval by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, including security, floor plans and architectural details, as well as a final inspection, would lead to a projected opening of the business next summer, said Krishna Lenox LLC’s Boston attorney, Jonathan Capano, of the public policy law firm Smith, Costello & Crawford.
He also described security procedures, including trained registered agents on-site as the first checkpoint for customers. State law prohibits opening marijuana products in public places, Capano pointed out. Purchases have to be placed in a vehicle’s trunk, he explained.
Capano emphasized the importance of “consumer education at the point of sale,” acknowledging that “there’s an initial stigma with cannabis and the type of client, but the typical consumer is spending upwards of $60 per transaction.”
Now that the state has approved cannabis delivery, he stated that Shah would set up a courier service for delivery to private residences only. The industry primarily is online-oriented with advance pickup arrangements, greatly reducing lines at pot shops, Capano noted.
He also maintained that there have been no illegal sales of marijuana products at licensed facilities in the state, nor any unlawful thefts of cannabis, since the store’s inventory is secured in a vault while the shop is closed, and there are multiple surveillance cameras in each store.
“Trying to rob one of these stores would probably be the dumbest thing someone could do,” the attorney said.
“My experience is that sometimes criminals can do some very, very stupid things,” Harper said.