OXFORD — The Appeals Board voted unanimously to reverse the Planning Board’s decision to deny the medical marijuana application of HBC LLC and remanded it back to the Planning Board to consider the application for evaluation and review.
The board has further voted 3-1 that the Planning Board was incorrect in issuing the town’s third and final marijuana grow permit to Stevenson Enterprises Inc., owner of three buildings at 517 Main St.
The decision was based on the Appeals Board’s belief that the Planning Board did not have the authority under the town’s Medical Marijuana Ordinance to issue a permit to Stevenson Enterprises Inc. because it did not meet the Ordinance’s required 250-foot setback from the nearest existing private residence.
In his arguments, attorney Andrew Helman, representing HBC LLC, requested during his arguments that the Appeals Board focus on the setback issue.
“That horse has left the barn. The ship has sailed,” he said of confusion over whether the so-called “precedent-setting” action by the Planning Board that resulted in approval of the Stevenson Enterprises Inc. application was appropriate or not.
The Appeals Board decision was reached after more than three hours of testimony and discussion at the Tuesday, Oct. 3 meeting that was held to hear the administrative appeal of HBC LLC over the Planning Board’s Aug. 10 issuance of the permit to Stevenson Enterprises Inc. HBC LLC also appealed the Planning Board’s denial of its own site plan review application for marijuana operations at 7 Oxford Homes Lane.
Attorney Jeffrey White, attorney for Ricky Beaudet, president of ActNow GC Inc., who is leasing the buildings from Stevenson Enterprises Inc., called the Appeals Board decision a possible “violation of due process” for his client.
Beaudet is leasing the property for his plumbing business from Brent Stevenson of Stevenson Enterprises Inc., and planned to purchase the property at 517-519 Main St. and sublet the larger of the three buildings to Americo and Deanna Varallo, who hoped to cultivate medical marijuana in the building.
The marijuana cultivation building was set to receive its final inspection by Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman on Wednesday, Oct. 4.
White said his client never had the opportunity to request a setback variance because they were told throughout the process that a precedent had already been set by the Planning Board in issuing a medical marijuana cultivation permit to Burlington Homes owner George Schott for a site that did not meet setback requirements under the town’s Ordinance.
That setback violation was later corrected at the Burlington Homes building by changing the site of the grow area, but not before ActNow GC LLC owners were told it would not be an issue in the Stevenson Enterprises Inc. application.
“They (his clients) never had the opportunity to ask for a variance,” White told the board. “At each meeting they were told, ‘You don’t need to appeal.'”
White told the Advertiser Democrat after the hearing that he and his clients will have to determine their next step. An appeal could be made to court. Beaudet had no comment following the hearing.
Greg Hamann, manager of HBC LLC, also had no comment but said Corey-Whitman told him the Planning Board will hear his application at its Thursday, Nov. 9 meeting.
According to appeal documents filed by HBC LLC, it is proposing to lease a portion of a building it owns at 7 Oxford Homes Lane to individual medical marijuana caregivers and recreational marijuana growers, providing those tenants operate within applicable Maine law.
The unanimous Planning Board denial on Aug. 10 of HBC LLC’s site plan review application was based purely on the unavailability of a medical marijuana grow permit following the board’s 3-2 decision to award Stevenson Enterprises the town’s final medical marijuna permit.
Hamann had asked the Planning Board on Aug. 10 to act on his application – even though there was no permit at the time to give out – in order to give him “standing” in an appeals case.
A move by White and Appeals Board member Clyde Holt to have the board issue another permit to HBC LLC to resolve the issues of all parties was deemed illegal by the Appeals Board attorney James Katsiaficas based on the town’s medical marijuana permit ordinance, which only allows for three permits.
The on-going process to award the third and final medical marijuana permit has been complicated and lengthy but was believed resolved in August when Planning Board members voted to award the permit to Stevenson Enterprises Inc.
The issue ultimately revolved around whether the Planning Board had previously awarded the permit with contingencies or had simply reviewed the application and tabled it in April.
Planning Board Chairman Stuart Davis and member Dennis Fournier, who have both since resigned from the board, voted against the issuance of the permit. Members Denise Landsberg, Dana Dillingham and Gerald Nicklaus – Nicklaus has also resigned from the board – agreed the permit had been awarded to Stevenson Enterprises at a previous meeting with one contingency concerning security measures.