LENOX — Ongoing efforts to open the town’s first retail marijuana shop have shifted yet again.
Faced with opposition from neighbors, hotel entrepreneur Navin Shah has withdrawn his application to open a shop in his long-vacant restaurant site at the entrance to the Lenox Commons mixed-use development.
Instead, he has signed a lease to open his shop in the formerly Essencials Day Spa on Pittsfield Road (Route 7/20), a few miles north. The 3,722-square-foot space shares the plaza with Papa John’s pizzeria, Electra’s Cafe, and the new Berkshire Dogs Unleashed boarding and grooming business.
At Wednesday’s Select Board meeting, Shah’s attorney, Jonathan Capano of Smith, Costello & Crawford in Boston, presented the reboot of the newly proposed destination. Shah already has a provisional state license for the business, Krishna Lenox LLC.
The revised application requires a modified host community agreement from the Select Board as well as a public meeting, a new special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals, and final approval from the state Cannabis Control Commission. The original agreement for the restaurant building gained Select Board approval last January.
The application is expected to be revisited at the next Select Board meeting, at 7 p.m. Nov. 18.
Capano acknowledged that “we were unable to strike an agreement” between his client and the association representing 41 condo owners at Lenox Woods, behind the commercial and professional office section of Lenox Commons. The neighbors had voiced concern at zoning board meetings about a marijuana shop’s potential impact on traffic, parking and maintenance costs at the development.
“For the best interests of Krishna Lenox, the town and the condominium owners, we felt it was best to go to a new location,” Capano told the Select Board.
He acknowledged that the 439 Pittsfield Road space briefly had been targeted by another prospective cannabis store owner.
“That’s lucky for us, because we think it’s a very suitable location,” he said.
In May 2019, Spirited Wine shop owner Jim Nejaime worked out a tentative lease deal for the site but withdrew it in favor of an opportunity to buy the Different Drummer’s Kitchen building on Pittsfield Road for a retail marijuana store. The next month, Shah unveiled plans to convert his vacant restaurant building into a cannabis shop.
After encountering pushback from residential neighbors on nearby New Lenox Road, Nejaime withdrew from the potential Different Drummer’s deal and briefly considered siting the pot shop in a new building at his property adjacent to Spirited on Holmes Road. Reached on Thursday, Nejaime said he continues to consider “other locations” in the Lenox commercial zone along Pittsfield Road.
Capano said that the state cannabis commission requires five “change of location” documents, including a signed lease agreement, in order to modify Shah’s provisional license. Also needed to move the application forward is a revised host community agreement from the Select Board and a new community outreach meeting. Because of the COVID pandemic, that can be a virtual meeting to be scheduled within several weeks.
Shah’s “minority-owned business” would be expedited for consideration by the state commission within one to three months after all local approvals are in place, Capano said.
He will submit an amended host community agreement, with an extension for additional time beyond the original one-year limit, to Town Counsel Joel Bard of KP Law in Boston, and then to the Select Board.
As town Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Ketchen pointed out, the only revision to the existing agreement is a change of location to a site previously approved by the Select Board for Nejaime’s proposed marijuana shop.
The previous approval contained conditions relating to traffic flow, Selectman David Roche pointed out, including possible consideration of a new traffic signal for the entrance to the Pittsfield Road location.
“We thought it was a pretty good site,” Selectman Edward Lane added.
Capano suggested that a decision on any new traffic light on the state road would be up to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
“We’re more than willing to help out and do whatever we can to make sure the site is sufficient and the light is where it needs to be,” he said, noting that a traffic study is underway, as requested by the zoning board.
“I just want to make sure that we’re careful that we don’t approve this site with less restrictions than before,” Roche said. “It’s a good site. We liked it; it’s just that we had some concerns.”