HEKA Host Community Agreement debated and decided by City Council

WESTFIELD – At Thursday’s City Council meeting, Ward 3 Councilor Andrew K. Surprise made the motion to support a resolution for the Mayor to sign a Host Community Agreement with HEKA for an adult use marijuana establishment, tabled from the Feb. 25 meeting following a negative recommendation from the Legislative & Ordinance committee.
Surprise said that he had met with City Advancement Officer Joe Mitchell, and said the agreement would bring the city a total of 6% in fees; amounting to an estimated $830,000 the first year, and $1.6 million the second year.
“We need the money, it’s legal, and there’s no reason to delay it any further,” Surprise said.
“We have someone who’s spent $7 million in Westfield,” added At-large Councilor Matt Emmershy, referring to the investment already made by HEKA following their Host Community Agreement for medical marijuana.
“I haven’t been impressed by his ability to deliver,” said At-Large Councilor Dave Flaherty, referring to Mark Dupuis, CEO of HEKA, who had initially said he would open the medical marijuana establishment in 2017, then postponed it to 2018, and has not yet opened for business.
“However, I’m adamantly opposed to recreational marijuana. I can’t say no to kids all day long, then vote for it,” Flaherty, who is a Boy Scout leader, added, saying he would vote no.
“I agree with Councilor Flaherty, but the people of Massachusetts said yes,” said At-large Councilor Cindy C. Harris.
Surprise said the business will be ready to go in a month. Ward 1 Councilor Mary Ann Babinski said she had read through the agreement, and there is a time limit in place. She also said that HEKA will have to answer to the Cannabis Control Commission, the state overseeing authority. “Whether we like it or not,” Babinski added.
At-large Councilor Nicholas J. Morganelli, Jr. said that as a father of four, he was on the fence, while acknowledging that the people voted for it.
Ward 4 Councilor Mike Burns said he voted no in L&O, because he doesn’t believe the company can meet the timeline.

“I’m going to be a no vote,” said At-large Councilor Dan Allie.
“We’re losing ground,” Surprise said, noting that Holyoke had just approved its fifth marijuana establishment. He said the councilors would also be sending a message to other businesses that want to come into the city.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with your personal feeling,” said Babinski. She said the city had approved up to four marijuana retailers, and HEKA is already here. She said if they said no to this business, “at some point, we’re going to have to say yes to three more.” The Council previously approved a Host Community Agreement with Cannabis Connections, Inc. for a shop at 40 Westfield Industrial Park Drive.
The vote for HEKA was then taken, and passed 8 to 4, with Allie, Burns, Flaherty and Morganelli voting no. Ward 6 Councilor William Onyski was not present at the meeting.
Also approved on a vote of 11-1 was the zone change application for 14 Coleman Ave. from Business B to Industrial A, submitted by Kimberly Betts, following a negative recommendation from the Planning Board. The change in zoning could allow a marijuana retail establishment at the location, and Betts had told the Planning Board there had been interest shown in the location for that purpose. The City Council determined that potential uses should not be considered in a zoning change. At-large Councilor Brent B. Bean, II was the sole no vote, siding with the Planning Board.

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