Parking lot for pot shop causes controversy

Apr 11, 2019

Officials from Verilife, a marijuana retailer located on Main Street, are hoping to operate a 60 spot gravel parking lot at the old Greer Lumber Yard, 59 Main St., for the next two years. Some neighbors are unhappy with the plans.

The plan was first presented at the Zoning Board of Appeals’ March 27 meeting and continued on April 10 in front of a crowd of nearly 50 people.

The owner of the land, Dan Willis, took over the property from his father-in-law in January of this year.

“I decided I was going to take immediate action and be a good neighbor,” Willis said at the April 10 meeting. He said he wanted to clean up the property to make it more safe and more visually appealing.

Over the past few decades, the property has often been decried as an eyesore due to the old World War II landing vehicles that were scattered around the property alongside three wooden sheds.

Willis emphasized that the property would only be a parking lot for a maximum of two years while he plans what he would ultimately like to do with the land. According to Selectmen Alan Slavin, Willis is considering making the property mixed-use.

Plans for a 15 or 16 slip marina were approved years ago, and Slavin said Willis is considering using the land for a high-end restaurant and marina alongside light marine parts manufacturing.

Verilife executive director  Shelly Stormo said that due to upcoming construction at the Tremont Nail Factory, where customers currently park before taking a shuttle to the dispensary, the company needs to find a new parking lot. The company, working with Wareham Police, has been unable to find an alternative lot.

If the lot at the old Greer Lumber Yard is not approved, customers would be forced to find parking elsewhere on Main Street or surrounding neighborhoods. Verilife has very limited parking that was sufficient when the dispensary only served medical marijuana users, but is not sufficient for the number of recreational customers.

Stormo said that allowing customers to park at the lot on Main Street would enable Verilife to remove the large signs located on Main Street and Rt. 28, which were mandated by police, that inform customers about parking and shuttles.

Stormo said that Verilife would continue to have private security on site along with a detail of two police officers.

Stormo said that the company is open to finding another location for the dispensary.

“All options are open,” Stormo said. “Space-wise, it’s very limited here. It’s certainly not ideal.”

Verilife uses LAAZ Parking to manage parking at Tremont Nail and operate the shuttle from the parking lot to the store. Christian Straub, who has been managing parking at Verilife, said that he keeps track of how many cars come to Verilife each day. There are, on average, 300 cars each weekday and 400 cars on Saturday and Sunday over the 10 hours the store is open.

Since sales of recreational marijuana began at Verilife in late December, 2018, recreational customers have been required to park at off-site lots. Initially, customers parked at the Water Wizz, where they were given a ticket before boarding a shuttle that brought them to the store. Only medical patients and those with handicap placards were allowed to park at the store.

In January, Verilife moved its off-site parking to the Tremont Nail Factory on Elm Street.

Beginning on February 18, Verilife began allowing customers who live or work in Wareham to walk up to the dispensary without parking at Tremont Nail.

Interior work has already begun at the site, and Wareham Planning Director Ken Buckland said that crews will soon begin work replacing the steel “skin” of the building, and will need to store large steel panels in the parking lot.

The first tenant, which will occupy the detached steel building, will be Organa Brands. Organa Brands is also a marijuana-based business and specializes in processing and manufacturing marijuana. There will be no retail sales at the building.

Neighbors, including many from the British Landing condominium building that abuts the proposed lot, expressed concerns about safety, traffic, noise, and other disruptions to the neighborhood.

A Wareham Police officer said that since it opened, there have been a total of three disturbance calls from the dispensary

The hearing will continue at the Board’s April 24 meeting.