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Prospective Sellers in Highlands Seek Alternative Site

January 25, 2019

LOWELL -- The fired-up residents ripping into the pot store proposal at one of the busiest intersections in the city will apparently get their way.

Wellman Farm, which had proposed a recreational marijuana store at the corner of Westford and Stedman streets in the Highlands, is now considering other options in the city and elsewhere.

This change in direction comes a month after dozens of residents voiced their opposition against the plan for a store at 1012 Westford St.

“I was disappointed,” Wellman Farm President Dominic Shelzi said of the December community outreach meeting. “I don’t think the opposition was fair.”

Wellman Farm has not officially withdrawn its application with the city, but they’re now looking at other sites.

“We’re still very interested in opening a retail site in the city of Lowell, and we will continue to pursue that,” Shelzi said.

Wellman Farm will still move forward with its proposed cultivation site on Wellman Street near Lowe’s off the Lowell Connector.

The majority of residents last month spoke about traffic and parking concerns in the area. Shelzi had tried to downplay traffic concerns, saying they were taking steps to limit traffic impacts if they received a license there.

Former Mayor Bud Caulfield at the meeting spoke adamantly against the proposal, pointing to the current congestion at the intersection.

When Caulfield learned Thursday about Wellman Farm no longer pursuing the Westford Street building for a store, he said, “Well, that’s wise of them.”

“It was a totally ridiculous idea,” he added. “At a place where traffic right now is horrible.”

Caulfield stressed that it’s important for residents to get out to these meetings, and share their input about such proposals. He plans to continue fighting against recreational marijuana sites elsewhere in the city.

“With every ounce of my body,” he added.

Wellman Farm had been planning to demolish half of the 6,000-square-foot vacant building at the intersection, resulting in 21 parking spots on site. They had also made arrangements to rent 10 spaces across the street.

Shelzi had said they were committed to doing sales by appointment-only, making traffic less of an issue. They were also considering parking spots at a site up on Stedman Street, and having a shuttle take patrons down to the facility.

City officials don’t anticipate extreme traffic issues as seen in Leicester after one of the first two shops statewide opened there, but city officials did recently ask each proposed business for additional information about traffic demand and mitigation plans.

The city can have up to five recreational marijuana dispensaries. Seven entities are under consideration for four remaining licenses. Patriot Care Corp., located on Industrial Avenue East, could open as early as February.

Last year, the Lowell City Council approved a 3-percent community impact fee for recreational sales, designated for police and education. Councilors have not yet earmarked where a 3-percent tax will go.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.

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