By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Grafton – James Gallagher, of Hollywood Drive, Grafton, spoke before the Grafton Board of Selectmen at its Feb. 16 meeting to express his concerns regarding a medical marijuana dispensary that is being built at 206 Worcester St.
Gallagher met with the board as a follow-up to its Jan. 11 meeting which was ended abruptly by the board after a number of residents became visibly angry during a discussion of the proposed facility.
The approval of the dispensary near a residential neighborhood in Grafton “took residents completely by surprise,” Gallagher told the board during the Feb. 16 meeting and “and occurred without voters’ knowledge or input.” This, he said, shows that the town and the board are “totally reactive rather than proactive” in such a situation.
As a result of the current voter unhappiness with the matter, he had two requests: (1) review the site and determine if it is suitable for such a business; and (2) commission an independent traffic study to demonstrate whether the business generated by the clinic has been properly considered. He said he believes such a traffic study is required by law.
Further, he contended, state law forbids such a business being located within 500 feet of any place where children congregate, such as schools and bus stops. He said believed this requirement has been ignored.
Finally, he said, parking space at the facility is vastly inadequate for the staff and clients who are expected to be there at any one time.
“Will Grafton be compensated for the impact from such a nonprofit business?” Gallagher asked. “Will proper signage and road improvements be made? I am unaware of any host agreement with Grafton.”
Selectmen Chair Craig Dauphinais admitted that no such agreement had so far been made.
Gallagher then said that “this is why conspiracy theories abound.”
Selectman Dennis Flynn then spoke, complimenting Gallagher on his presentation, and noting that the board had not considered changing the location of the clinic. He added that this matter had been discussed as part of another hearing but did not give residents either notice of the matter nor a chance to give their input.
“People are angry,” said Gallagher, “and some believe the board has been paid off.”
“I think the board needs to admit it made a mistake because it probably thought it would have a chance to revisit this before it was approved,” he noted.
He reiterated that people are angry over how this was approved and that the board needs to deal with the issue of voter unhappiness.
Selectman Bruce Spinney, as he had done previously, said that the process had been followed properly and that other hearings had not been necessary because the clinic meets zoning requirements.
“We actively looked at the traffic situation and we knew some business was going in this location,” he said.
He stated that at this point he did not know what could be done to assuage voter concerns other than commission a study regarding traffic.
The board then moved to direct Town Administrator Timothy McInerney to write a memo for town residents regarding the permitting process, the issue of children near the site, the possibility of relocating the clinic, and issues of traffic and parking. The memo is to be approved at the next selectmen’s meeting which will be held Tuesday, March 2.