Amid pushback and delay of consideration for proposal, new site sought for Lenox retail pot shop
LENOX — Facing fierce opposition from neighbors, entrepreneur Navin Shah is eyeing a new location for his proposed retail marijuana shop.
But, he's not committing to dropping the first location just yet.
Shah's attorney, Andrew Hochberg, told members of the Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday night that he expects to file an application for a different location within three weeks, pending final negotiations with the owner of the undisclosed site. The board voted 4-0 to approve a 60-day delay for further consideration of the project.
"If we are successful in finding an alternate location, and we think we will be successful, we will submit another petition," Hochberg said. "My hope is to submit the petition within the next three weeks, if not a little earlier than that."
Shah has been seeking a special permit to open the shop, Krishna Lenox, in the former 170-seat restaurant building that he owns in the multi-use Lenox Commons complex off Route 7/20. But, residents of neighboring condominiums have raised concerns about the potential for additional traffic at the site and increased maintenance costs.
"We're obviously very aware of the concerns of the residents," Hochberg told the board. "We think this is a very good project for Lenox, a very good location, and what we've heard is that the concerns seem to be primarily about the location."
The town has approved a maximum of two retail cannabis shops along the nearly 3-mile commercial corridor north of downtown to the Pittsfield city line.
Asked by ZBA Chairman Robert Fuster Jr. if he would withdraw the original Lenox Commons petition if he submits a new one, the attorney responded that "I would reserve that right until the next hearing."
That hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 18, remotely via Zoom or at a location to be announced.
"I think this is a really good solution, because I could see this dispute going on for a very long time," said ZBA member Albert Harper.
At the ZBA's previous meeting, Sept. 2, Fuster had pointed out that correspondence had been received from 26 residents of the 41-unit Lenox Woods condo development, all of them opposed to the project.
Before the brief Tuesday night meeting adjourned, Hochberg stated that he had submitted six or seven letters to the ZBA from business tenants at 55 Pittsfield Road, some in favor, some with no opinion and one opposed to the application.
In a follow-up interview, the attorney said that "we have some locations" under consideration as alternatives to the Lenox Commons site.
"We're trying to move as fast as we can," he added.
"At any location, traffic is going to be an issue," Hochberg pointed out. "That's what I have to evaluate."
He asserted that Shah's application meets all local and state requirements, including the business plan and security measures.
"I think this is a good location here," Hochberg said, referring to the initial site. "We think the traffic pattern off Route 7 is the best, but it has residents, so we're trying to be sensitive.
"I'm not prepared to fight about it right now, and I'll avoid that fight at all costs, if I can," he said. "It doesn't mean we're rolling over and giving up. We have a good plan, we just need the right place, so I've got to keep looking."
Clarence Fanto can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.
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