WESTFIELD – The ninth Host Community Agreement for a marijuana establishment was reviewed by the Legislative & Ordinance Committee on June 28 before recommending it for approval, and sending it to the City Council’s July 1 meeting.
Lucky 7 Cannabis Inc. is a small marijuana cultivation operation intending to build a greenhouse on the corner of Timberswamp Road and Medeiros Way.
Community Development Director Peter J. Miller said the mayor had asked to put forward the HCA. He said Lucky 7 will be a relatively small operation, starting with 5,000 square-feet of cultivation and 2,500 square-feet of working space, with the intention of expanding to 10,000 sq. ft. for growing only.
Representing the owners, Attorney Blake Mensing said the size is the smallest license in the state. He said it takes 10,000 square-feet. of canopy to supply one store, and this would supply half of one store. Mensing said the security regulations are greater than what is needed in banks, and they will have odor control and screening, and no exterior signage to give away what is grown. He said the HCA will be the springboard for them to apply to the state.
Miller said they held a community outreach meeting one month ago, and have not yet gone before the planning board. “Before they invest that money, they wanted to get the HCA,” he said.
Jeff Baksa and A.J. Lawton of Lucky 7 then spoke about themselves and the project.
Talking about themselves, Baksa and Lawton said they run Transfer Enterprises in Manchester and Stamford, Conn., a company that decommissions and revitalizes office furniture that Lawton’s father started. Lawton said collectively they have put 32 years in the company. He said they also do a lot with veterans, and have donated “a ton” of furniture to veterans programs and the New England Veterans Alliance.
Baksa said his sister lives in Westfield, and he had been looking for property to start a marijuana grow business. Subsequently, they bought the land on Timberswamp and have already done a wetland survey and delineation on the property, which has a perennial stream, and walked the property with Conservation Coordinator Meredith Borenstein. He said usable land is 10 acres in the front corner, which is where the greenhouse would go. He said the greenhouse will look like a steel building from the outside, completely opaque, with a clear roof.
“We put the money on the table before we knew if we’d get the HCA,” Baksa said.
Miller said one aspect that appealed to the city was their commitment to organic growing and environmental stewardship.
“We’re recyclers by nature — that’s what we do. We recycle furniture, large scale. That started our passion for being green-minded, a core tenet of our business for going on 30 years. There are many certified organic companies that are local. A company in Westfield, 360 Recycling next to the airport, makes dirt. We want to support this community. We want to build here,” Baksa said, adding, “We want to do business with other local businesses. Shopping local is 10 times better.”
Miller said the greenhouse would be new growth for Westfield. In addition, there would be up to a 3 percent community impact fee, but the city would have to show impact.
“My father’s hobbies have always been land. There’s nothing that we want to do more than to keep the forestry look,” Lawton said, adding that they would be building across from C&S Wholesale, and had no intention of taking down the tree line.
A letter received from former Ward 1 Councilor Mary Ann Babinski was read into the record. In it, Babinski wanted to be sure that any issues with building anything on, or near, the aquifer were addressed.
At-large Councilor James R. Adams, who was acting as chair pro tem for the discussion, noted that other big cultivation operations in Westfield are about to go up. “You think you can make a go of it?” he asked.
“What’s available in Mass. is Bud Lite [in marijuana] — they’re looking for a higher quality product,” said Mensing.
“We’re very passionate about what we do, the transformation of furniture with power coating and wood shops. We like the potential of having a few greenhouses in a few years. We’re not trying to be the big guys,” Lawton said.
Ward 4 Councilor Michael Burns said he appreciated the company’s commitment to veterans issues. He asked if they get the license, when they would build.
“If we’re fortunate to get the HCA, we will have the application in the first week in July. I would anticipate a provisional license 6 to 9 months, then buildout in early 2022,” Baksa said.
Burns then made a motion to recommend the HCA to the City Council which passed 2 to 0, and was on the agenda to be discussed at the July 1 meeting.
The eight HCA’s that have already been signed in Westfield include retail operations Cannabis Connection, the only one open as yet; Heka, Red Cardinal, and most recently Pioneer Valley Trading, which would be a retail and grow business. Other cultivation operations include Hidden Hemlock and Sungrown Alternatives. Safetiva, a testing lab and CleanTechnique, a processing lab, have also signed HCAs in Westfield.