Springfield – The city plans to continue working with Hampden Care Facility Inc., its recommended developer for Springfield’s first medical marijuana dispensary, despite the city council’s rejection of a proposed host-community agreement on Monday.
But the path forward is still unclear, with city officials and Hampden Care declining to discuss specifics on how they plan to win the council’s approval, which is needed for the dispensary to begin operation.
“My administration has undertaken rigorous efforts to find the best developer to provide these services to people in need. We vetted nine applicants and chose the best one from the stand-point of public health, safety and economic development. Next steps are that we will continue to work with the chosen developer to satisfy the conditions of their special permit with relation to the host agreement,” Mayor Domenic Sarno said in a statement.
“I remain hopeful that the City Council renders a decision to help those individuals and families in need ASAP,” Sarno continued. “Also, if another dispensary is proven to be needed, we have the proper mechanisms in the agreement to address such concerns.”
In June, the city council gave Hampden Care a special permit which gives the company two years to begin construction on the dispensary. But the permit was conditioned on the council approving a host-community agreement negotiated between the city’s executive branch and the developer – a deal that was killed after a wide-ranging debate Monday night.
The deal would have given the city a percentage of dispensary revenues, required the company to donate $50,000 annually to the Springfield Police Department, provided funding for the Indian Orchard and East Springfield neighborhood councils and given Hampden Care five years of exclusivity as the only dispensary in the city.
Councilors took issue with both the neighborhood council grants and the exclusivity term. Councilor Ken Shea warned that the council funding could lead to neighborhood-based favor trading in future council actions. Council Vice President Orlando Ramos said the city should not grant exclusivity, describing it as an unfair limit on competition.
And after City Solicitor Ed Pikula warned that the council likely had to give the deal an up-or-down vote and could not legally renegotiate sections of the agreement in a legislative hearing, the council spiked the agreement by an eight to three margin.
Hampden Care attorney Frank Antonucci, who said the company had “compromised and bartered” to reach a fair deal with the city, refused to comment on future strategy after the meeting.
Pikula, in a phone interview Tuesday, also would not give specifics on how the city’s executive branch plans to win the council’s approval. But he did say the city is not giving up on Hampden Care, which was chosen as the best dispensary developer among nine applicants by a city review committee.
“The city and the developer will be meeting to review the current situation and try to agree on a plan for moving forward,” Pikula said.
Pikula said that the special permit approved by the city council in June could allow the developer to begin some work on the proposed dispensary site at 506 Cottage St. But the facility will not be able to obtain a certificate of occupancy until a host-community agreement is supported by the council.
The state’s medical marijuana law, passed in 2012, requires that dispensaries receive a letter of non-opposition from the municipality where they seek to open.
Cities like Springfield and Worcester have negotiated host-community agreements with providers in exchange for their approval. In Worcester’s case, it has signed agreements with multiple dispensaries requiring that they pay the city $450,000 over three years, plus an growing percentage of gross sales.
New England Treatment Access in Northampton is currently the sole open dispensary in Western Mass.
Springfield’s deal-making process has also drawn criticism from medical marijuana advocates. The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, the group that put medical marijuana on the ballot in 2012, has accused the city of delaying needed care to patients as it negotiates for higher revenues. The organization argues that the process has set a precedent that increases the difficulty for dispensaries to gain approval across the state.
“The city has had over three years to come to a reasonable agreement,” the group said in a press release. “Holding up the process because of politics and revenue is not becoming of a municipality this late in the process.”
Under the host community agreement, the company would have given a percentage of its gross revenue to the city as an annual payment. The amount would have begun at 2 percent of the gross revenue and rise gradually to 6 percent, along with yearly $50,000 donations to the police department.
Hampden Care Facility’s corporate officers include Tom Gallagher, of Newbury, N.H.; Alexa Gallagher, of Springfield; Dr. Shawn Charest, of Florence, S.C.; Dr. Bruce Nassau, of Lakewood, Colo.; William Ketchen, of Chicopee; and Jennifer Gottschlicht, of New York City, according to state corporate records.
News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Springfield To Stick With Hampden Care Facility After City Council Rejects Medical Marijuana Deal
Author: Dan Glaun
Contact: Massachusetts Local News
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