OXFORD — The awarding of the town’s final medical marijuana cultivation permit has been confirmed, but the Planning Board’s decision could still be challenged.
Greg Hamann, manager of HBL LLC, whose application to cultivate medical marijuana in a building at 7 Oxford Homes Lane, was denied by the Oxford Planning Board at its Thursday, Aug. 10 meeting, said Tuesday, Aug. 15, he is still deciding whether to challenge the decision.
The unanimous denial was based purely on the unavailability of a grow permit following the board’s 3-2 decision that Stevenson Enterprises of 517 Main St. had been awarded the final permit at a previous meeting.
Hamann asked for his application to be acted on regardless of the lack of permits, in order to give him “standing” in an appeals case. He now has 30 days to appeal the denial and if he does, it is expected that he will challenge the legality of the permit issuance to Stevenson Enterprises Inc.
Stevenson Enterprises Inc. was awarded the final permit conclusively following 90 minutes of debate and discussion that revolved around whether the Planning Board had previously awarded the permit with contingencies or had simply reviewed the application and tabled it.
Planning Board Chairman Stuart Davis and member Dennis Fournier voted against the decision.
The narrowly approved decision paves the way for Actnow GC Inc. President Ricky Beaudet, who is leasing the property for his plumbing business from Brent Stevenson of Stevenson Enterprises Inc., to purchase the property at 517-519 Main St. and sublet the larger of the three buildings to Americo Varallo and Deanna Varallo, who will cultivate medical marijuana in the building.
The approval to implement the marijuana grow plan was contingent on Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman inspecting and approving the building’s security measures. That has been completed, she said Tuesday.
The complicated and contentious Planning Board decision on Aug. 10 that cemented the final permit award involved hours of debate over several months, three attorneys and at least half a dozen primary players who argued that the Planning Board had in fact already approved the 517 Main St. application at a previous meeting.
The problem, many agreed, is that in August 2016, the Planning Board approved a medical marijuana grow facility permit for former Burlington Homes owner George Schott of Nobility LLC that appeared to be nonconforming with setback requirements.
Stevenson Enterprises Inc. then submitted a medical marijuana grow application earlier this year with a nonconforming building, citing a “precedence” had been set with the Schott approval.
Paperwork found later showed that Schott’s building setback did conform to the town’s ordinance, but Stevenson Enterprises Inc. argued the approval of its application had already been made.
At the Aug. 13 meeting, attorney Jeffrey Wilson, of Braun & Wilson in Paris, argued for his client, Ricky Beaudet, that the board had made a decision at a previous meeting to award the permit with the one contingency – that security measures at the building be inspected and approved.
“Please try to remember what happened that night,” said Wilson. He said he had at least seven witnesses, including a former judge and 30-year area lawyer, who were present at the meeting and would say a vote was taken.
“The minutes are clear. They’re so clear. The decision has already been made,” he said.
Davis said he believed no vote was taken but the decision was tabled.
Mary Costigan of Bernstein Shur, the town’s counsel, who was not present at any of the previous meetings with Stevenson Enterprises Inc., said it was clear to her that there was no final approval of the project issued.
The turning point in the 90-minute discussion appeared to be when Planning Board member Denise Landsberg, who was present at the previous meetings, insisted the board’s action was a vote.
“I’m saying a decision was made,” she said to fellow board members when Davis called for a “straw vote” of whether the 517 Main St. application had been approved at a previous meeting.
Landsberg pointed to other site plan application approvals the board has made previously that had contingencies attached but were considered final votes.
In this case, Stevenson Enterprises Inc. had to meet a subsection of the marijuana ordinance, which deals strictly with security measures at the building as a contingency. That contingency does not require the applicant to return to the board but rather to work with Corey-Whitman who had to sign off on the requirement once inspected.
While Planning Board member Dana Dillingham was not present at the previous meeting when the vote was taken, he said he based his decision on the written minutes of the meeting, and assuming the minutes were correct, he agreed that a vote was made to approve the application as complete with the contingency.
Fournier voted against the application’s approval, saying he was not at the meeting but he believed the application could not have been approved because it had not been signed yet by members.
Planning Board member Gerald Nicklaus said he believed the application had been tabled.
Davis said he did not believe the vote was an approval but rather they had only accepted the application as complete, pending approval of security measures and a ruling by town counsel on what an approval of this application would mean if it was appealed.
Davis has long agreed that the Planning Board was in some disarray in the past and that made the present board’s job difficult at times.
“I won’t deny there have been previous mistakes made,” he said, but he stressed the present board has been working hard with the assistance of Corey-Whitman to ensure that the board’s actions are accountable.
HBL LLC actions
Corey-Whitman has said previously that there are marijuana grow permit inquiries coming in despite the limited number of available permits, in large part because of the transportation advantages of being on Route 26. The road leads to the state highway Route 95 and there are empty warehouses available.
HBL LLC, a limited liability company registered with the state of Maine in May of this year and managed by Greg Hamann, a co-owner of MGA Cast Stone, was one of those interested.
MGA Cast Stone owns five buildings on the property at 7 Oxford Homes Lane, which is next to the Oxford Speedway, where town water and sewer are available.
According to his medical marijuana grow permit application, the plan was to grow marijuana in one of five buildings that has been used until recently as a gym and is now under renovations.
While it is unclear how far renovations to the building have gone, it is known that several real estate transactions between HBL LLC and MGA Cast Stone were conducted just days before the application went before the Planning Board.
On Aug. 7, the company filed paperwork that showed MGA Cast Stone went through a refinancing and changed ownership from HPL LLC, managed by Gerard H. Hamann, manager of Hamann Properties LLC and co-owner of MGA Cast Stone of the same address, to HPC LLC, managed by Gregg Hamann.
According to records at the Oxford County Registry of Deeds East, a quit claim deed with covenants, dated Aug. 7, transferred property at 7 Oxford Homes Lane from Gerard H. Hamann to HBL LLC.
A 21-year lease was signed by MGA Cast Stone to lease space from HBL LLC.
HBL LLC also filed paperwork on Aug. 7 that showed three mortgages in the amounts of $527,770 and $422, 222, both with Provident Bank in Massachusetts, and $434,000 to Granite State Economic Development Corp.
Whether the refinancing assisted in Greg Hamann’s plans to turn one of the buildings into a marijuana grow site is unknown.
It was stated by Wilson at the Planning Board’s Aug. 10 meeting that his clients had already put thousands of dollars into the 517 Main St. grow site and that relocation of the tenants from as far away as New York to Oxford was underway was the tenants felt they were assured the grow permit.
Whether HBL LLC appeals the decision still has to play out.
“We’re not sure how we are going to proceed yet,” Greg Hamann said of appeal application he requested and received on Friday. “My attorney is handling it.”