P&Z Denies Daybreak, Postpones Pot

Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission took action last night on one contentious issue, and heard from a herd of residents on another.

By a vote of 4-2, the board denied a proposal by Able Construction to build 11 homes at the former Daybreak Nurseries site on Main Street, near Weston Road. The units would have been restricted to people age 55 and older.

Neighborhood opposition, traffic concerns and possible soil contamination were among the major objections raised, before the vote.

Able Construction hoped to build 11 units of housing.off Main Street and Weston Road.

Residents also voiced strong opposition to proposals for 2 medical marijuana dispensaries on the Post Road. One is for the now-shuttered Bertucci’s restaurant, near the Sherwood Island Connector; the other is at the former Blockbuster video rental store near North Maple Avenue.

Among the opponents: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

No vote was taken. The P&Z will hear more from the public on April 5.

The former Bertucci’s — site of one of the proposed medical marijuana dispensaries.

23 responses to “P&Z Denies Daybreak, Postpones Pot

  1. First Selectman Jim Marpe’s statement on the medical marijuana applications is below. I think he is spot on.

    “Sensible and Balanced” Medical Marijuana statement by First Selectman Jim Marpe:

    The Applications before the Planning & Zoning Commission are more complex than conventional ones, and therefore require a thoughtful, sensible and balanced approach.

    Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker and I acknowledge that for many people, including a number of Westporters, medical marijuana provides medicinal benefits that traditional drugs are not capable of. Advocates for medical marijuana include reputable organizations such as the American Nurses Association, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Epilepsy Foundation, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, National Women’s Health Network and many others.

    Nevertheless, while medical marijuana is legal in the State of Connecticut and 28 other states, it remains illegal under federal law that classifies it as a Schedule I drug which, according to the DEA, has a high potential for abuse and dependency. Moreover, for many of our residents, it is associated with a stigma that seems incompatible with our community.

    Given the uncertainty surrounding the legality of dispensing medical marijuana, as well as concerns about potential abuse, we request that the P&Z consider permitting only one dispensary that is of modest size, in a non-prominent location, and located a significant distance away from schools. Neither of the two locations currently under review meet these criteria, and they should both be rejected.

    833 Post Road East, the former Bertucci’s restaurant, is located at a prominent gateway to Westport off Interstate 95 at the intersection of Post Road East and the Sherwood Island Connector. It has the potential of expanding significantly into the large ground floor area. A few decades ago at that same gateway location, visitors and residents were greeted by the old Clam Box Restaurant, a family run establishment that exemplified Westport’s character. A first introduction to Westport should not be a medical marijuana facility.

    The second proposed site, the former Blockbuster Video, and more recently DXL Clothing, is located very close to Long Lots School. Many families and children will be traveling by this location on their way to and from school. It too is an inappropriate site for a medical marijuana dispensary.

    We are very sensitive to the needs of those who rely on medical marijuana to ease the effects of their ailments. It is unfair to expect them to travel long distances to obtain their medication. However, a single modest site, located in a small retail store or office/professional building, is better suited to meet the needs of Westport residents and local area patients who are prescribed medical marijuana. A single dispensary in such a location is also better suited so that officials may monitor and better assess the impact of possible future expansion.

    We encourage the Planning & Zoning Commission to take a sensible, balanced and modest approach to these applications. Let’s determine the impact of one small dispensary before we create a potential negative situation that cannot be undone.

  2. Mary Ruggiero

    Thank you, First Selectman.

  3. Thank you P&Z for recognizing the neighborhood’s serious concerns about safety and the environmental impact of development on the former l Daybreak Nursery site. We are not NIMBY to senior housing or development on the site, but want to ensure that whatever happens there enhances the town and neighborhood on a safe and thoughtful way.

  4. I feel it’s important to thank the P&Z for their service to the town after last night. Couldn’t believe how rude, disrespectful, and out of control, the public audience was to the P&Z members who volunteer their time and work so hard. I can understand people are there as concerned citizens and need to be heard but last night was shocking and unhelpful. It appeared to me they were there to control and disrupt the process by bulling the P&Z. Don’t know why the P&Z members would be willing to donate their time to be abused. Once again I want to thank the P&Z members for all the hours and hard work they do… for free… to make our town a fabulous place to be. We are very lucky to have such an amazing non-partisan group of people sorting out the hardest questions to answer; how to keep Westport moving forward.

  5. Arline Gertzoff

    I applaud the decision to deny 11 houses on the Daybreak site .No development should take place until the intersection is reconfigured properly and safely not some weird plan that was circulated .One small dispensary is all that is needed for town residents who can benefit.Thanks P and Z for your thoughtful approach Let’s get a sensible plan for the Daybreak intersection.Senior housing should be62 at least not 55.

  6. having eaten hundreds of meals at the Clambox, i do not feel that the place “exemplified Westport’s character” in any sense whatsoever. you funny, Avi !

  7. Don L. Bergmann

    The P&Z decision to deny the application as to the former Daybreak Site was a difficult one, with excellent arguments on both sides. That is reflected in the four to two vote.
    As to the two Medical Marijuana Dispensaries,like Mark Yurkiv, I was so very disappointed with the hostility of many in attendance. If I was now obtaining Medical Marijuana from a site far from Westport, I would almost be afraid to speak before such a group of people. I even might ask the Commission to allow me to give my name only to them privately.
    CT has approved Medical Marijuana. Westport adopted regulations to allow for dispensaries in certain areas of Town. Without those regulations, a Dispensary could well be located anywhere. The P&Z is doing its job and the two applications for dispensaries are fundamentally consistent with our regulations. Hopefully at the next public hearing, April 5th, the public will support this medical treatment, one that will not result in the “horrors” that some suggest. Westport is a caring Town. That caring should extend to those unfortunate people who find real relief and benefits from the use of Medical Marijuana. It should also be more clearly expressed by our First Selectman and the former Second Selectman. For me, Jim Marpe’s words, while couched in caring and sensitivity, will fuel the anger of those who simply object to the CT Law.
    Don Bergmann

  8. Regarding the Daybreak denial, what a consummate amount of time the P & Z wasted on this! The wafts of NIMBY are very hard to ignore. Thanks to Cathy W. And Paul L. For their sensible vote.

  9. Dale Najarian

    Medical Marijuana in Westport? No Thank You.

    I was at the meeting last night and there was a lot of comparisons to the Bethel CT dispensary’s success and overwhelming approval…

    I researched and found a photo of the Bethel location and google mapped it to see the surrounding street view and neighborhood. The map shows a Target, Best Western, and Days Inn that are in close proximity, making it a large commercial area between two highways. I also found that there are no schools within 2.3 miles of the Bethel dispensary. I’m sure P&Z has already done this research, but I thought it was beneficial since direct comparisons were made during the meeting.

    The proposed large facilities, near Westport’s residential areas, schools (Staples, Greensfarm, Long Lots) and on the prominent Post Rd. is a bad idea and I cannot see how this benefits the Westport Community.

    P&Z needs to hear from more concerned residents to vote NO for these proposed dispensaries operating in Westport.

    Thank you,
    Dale Najarian

  10. I did not attend the recent meeting. Was there a rationale for why Westport needs a medical marijuana facility? I haven’t seen one presented thus far so perhaps one was this week. What % of Westport’s population is being served by such a facility? if not in Westport, where is the closest such facility to someone in need of such services, and is that distance a true inconvenience? Not being unsympathetic but am trying to understand the size of the market being served by a facility within Westport. If other towns would also be served by such a facility, perhaps the potential owners would find more suitable locations in those towns? Trying to find a commericial location in Westport that is not in a prominent location, or away from a school zone, will make it tough to locate (perhaps Coleytown near the Wilton line? Again, all comes back to the size of the market/population someone is trying to serve, and why Westport is the best location for such a business. With neighboring, larger cities such as Norwalk and Fairfield next door, I’m struggling to understand the business rationale – not social or legal – for locating such a facility in Westport. Has anyone explained that publicly yet?

  11. Ted Friedman

    Perhaps it is time that we seriously consider forcing Walgreens and CVS to leave town given how many overmedicated people hang out there and obtain opioid, Ritalin, and Adderall prescriptions, whose ill effects are well documented and whose social risks are clearly far greater than marijuana.

  12. Lauren MacNeill

    Thank you Dan for always covering the important issues and giving us all a forum to discuss as a community. I have no skin in this game. I don’t smoke and I don’t happen to know anyone who needs any medicinally but I am extremely surprised by what seems to be the reaction by many Westporters.
    I wonder if there are others who feel as I do and are not speaking up. These proposals are for medicinal dispensaries – not a recreational “drug” store. I google mapped what the ones look like in Milford and they are lovely looking office buildings called “Wellness centers” . They don’t look like anything in particular and they certainly don’t look like the liquor stores that we literally have on every block with huge pictures of wine and booze in the windows. It seems as though many are concerned about the proximity to schools and I think its not warranted. Are people picturing that those with medicinal cards are going to be standing outside smoking or selling to our school kids? As to “why do we need 2” … we probably don’t need 2 in our town but I understand they set their own prices so having 2 would be beneficial for those that are customers. I’m concerned that a lot of what I’m hearing is misinformed and frankly its coming off a bit snobbish – the “not in Westport” thinking… We should then get rid of the CVS, the Walgreen’s and all the liquor stores too. I’d like to hear from those who are for it. And I’d like to hear if I’m wrong as well , I didn’t attend last night because I had no idea there would be this much opposition.

    • I very much agree with you Lauren. I think there is a lot of psychological knee jerk reaction around the idea of marijuana. I personally have zero interest in it, but fail to see why it should be treated differently than any other drug. All drugs have the potential to harm, and many have the potential to cause dependency. All doctors and scientists know that we balance the decision to take any medication by weighing the risks against the advantages. How many liquor stores do we have in Westport? How many complaints have Westporters made about them? Probably not many. How much harm does alcohol cause so many Americans – and probably quite a number of Westporters as well. I say we leave these decisions to doctors and patients, and treat marijuana no differently than we treat any other drug.

  13. Phillip Perri

    First I have to agree that the shameful show of disrespect at the hearing was unbelievable. An apology is owed to every member of the P&Z as well as the petitioners. That said on April 5th everyone that shares the opinion that a marijuana dispensary has no place being located in a retail storefront on Post Road, which is anything but “discreet”, even though they don’t get a typical retail sign, had better show up and voice their opinion. The Bertucci’s site probably fails because of its proximity (less than 1,000′) from a public building (no, the “public” doesn’t have to congregate there to be considered a public building, it’s owned by the State). This is unfortunate because if we are to approve one of the 2, this would be the less problematic. It is 3,000 sf (340sf entrance first floor and 2,500sf 2nd, and tucked in the rear of the building. The DXL is a 6,000sf building with enviable retail presence and visibility, that will be leased by one corporate entity who will run the dispensary (4,500sf!) and “sublease” the remaining space to a wellness spa. The trick is allegedly the same corporation is a partner in the spa as well. So let’s say, for example, marijuana becomes legalized for recreational use in the future……guess what, 6,000sf of head shop, don’t keep kidding yourselves. Now this application purportedly meets the 1,000′ radius restriction, however if you measure from its property line to the property line (not building to building) to Long Lots Elementary School I’m guessing it fails or just barely makes it. The proximity to kid-centric uses adjacent on Post Road and a close knit neighborhood where kids and adults are used to walking and biking to stores adjacent to the proposed, make this a horrible location for this use. There was public comment from various doctors and even a gentleman that makes his living creating drugs and dealing with the authorities, all of which not only shot down any notion that marijuana is a “medicine” or “medicinal” or even (as one of the petitioners claimed) a cure for cancer and alzheimers. The only use being for placebo affect or perceived pain management by dulling the senses. The fact is marijuana is a schedule 1 controlled substance and illegal. There was even more comment from medical professionals that marijuana IS addictive and dangerous, especially to our children’s brain development. This is a Pandora’s box Westport doesn’t need. The petitioners went to great lengths to convince everyone that no one would even know they were at the site and the only way their clients know about them is because they are given a list of dispensaries when they get their card. If that be the case, I beg anyone who supports this to explain to me why the provider needs a front-and-center, billboard retail location on Post Road? The client can’t find the dispensary in an office building where other medical offices are? By State statute you can’t have signage larger than a legal size piece of paper. You’d have better signage on the tenant roster board in the lobby of an office building. This use should be relegated to within an office building. It even came out last night that the P&Z made mistakes on its mapping of acceptable sites, including missing the state owned property proximate the Bertucci’s and missing an operating day care and school proximate to the DXL (whether it was permitted to operate as one or not). They didn’t take into consideration that the Westport schools identified the sidewalk at the site as an “official” travel path for the Long Lots kids and, based on that path, decided who doesn’t have bus service. What other mistakes were made? Based on the flawed approval of the text amendment, there should be a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries in Town until the text amendment can be examined and discussed. I believe it should be amended to only allow one dispensary in Town and only within an office building. An office building setting will function as well as a retail storefront for the medicinal use and can be easier to secure. There’s a perfectly good building across from Bertucci’s that could use more tenants, it’s always had occupancy issues. PLEASE come out on April 5th and call for a moratorium……….but be respectful as you do so please.

    • Scott Broder

      Phillip Perri, thank you for your intelligently stated perspective on this marijuana dispensary location!

  14. Nancy Hunter

    The ignorance surrounding this medical issue is astounding, just as the rejection of universal healthcare.

  15. Bart Shuldman

    Westport talks the talk, but never walks the walk.

    Sorry the senior project was ended.

    Maybe one day.

  16. Richard Fogel

    put the medical dispensary inside liquor stores

    • Nancy Hunter

      — or, every place that sells tobacco?
      Damage is done. Have some empathy.

  17. Carl Addison Swanson

    Once again Westporters rear their ugly head with the roar: “Every place but here!!” The town had a similar outage in the 1960’s when Synanon, a national drug rehabilitation center was located in Greens Farms. Marijuana is now legal, in some form, in 24 states and has been decriminalized and medical marijuana approved in CT when a prescription is issued by a certified physician. It has helped many of us VETS suffering from PTSD and others suffering from arthritis, as well as cancer victims. And considering STAPLES is now the number one high school in the state reporting drug over dosages from prescription drugs, I suggest P&Z re-evaluate the locations of our local Walgreens and CVS where our opioid epidemic flourishes. Isn’t there a medical facility in town which would house such a weed dispensary? Because like it or not, weed has been around for 50 years and involves too much money to attempt to outshout its future.

  18. Scott Broder

    Thank you Jim Marpe for your “sensible and balanced” statement on medical marijuana dispensaries in our town of Westport, As a leader for our town, you are as usual, “spot on”❗️👍🏻

  19. Phillip Perri

    Again I ask, ” I beg anyone who supports this to explain to me why the provider needs a front-and-center, billboard retail location on Post Road?”

    But what do we get? Same old tired, ridiculous, smoke-screen arguments about alcohol, cigarettes, NIMBY, and now, amazingly enough, universal heath care.

    The majority of public at the hearing supported a marijuana dispensary in Westport, and the desire to support folks who believe in marijuana’s medicinal benefits……just not the locations proposed. Stop making up your own truths. I don’t think anyone would balk at a 2,500sf dispensary inside an office building.

    So, again I’ll ask; “I beg anyone who supports this to explain to me why the provider needs a front-and-center, billboard retail location on Post Road?”

    April 5th, please come out and demand a moratorium and adjustment to the text amendment allowing ONE dispensary inside an office building.