Planning Board amends pot shop conditions for traffic details

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North Attleborough Town Hall

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

Following a lengthy discussion, the Planning Board has closed a hearing on a site plan review for Green Leaf Health, one of three marijuana stores proposed for North Attleborough.

The Planning Board had recently approved the site plan and granted a special permit for Green Leaf Health, but this was appealed by RB Rogers, Inc. in Bristol Superior Court. RB Rogers Inc. owns the property at 540 Kelley Blvd. The appeal argued that a proper level of review for the site plan was needed. The court remanded the case back to the board.

At its meeting on Feb. 3, Attorney Stephen Clapp—representing RB Rogers, Inc.—requested the proposed marijuana store pay an estimated $25,000 for a police detail between 4 and 7 p.m. during the first three months of operations. Clapp said there is concern about a traffic backup onto his client’s lots or Kelly Boulevard. He said traffic studies done by the applicant do not accurately reflect current traffic counts, as they were done in October 2020.

If traffic is backed up and drivers cannot make turns, my client’s tenants will suffer,” said Clapp at the board’s Feb. 17 meeting. “My client will need to hire a lawyer and conduct a traffic study to show relief is needed while Green Leaf is up the street printing money.”

Clapp added that his client was willing to drop his case if the traffic detail was mandated.

Attorney Walter Sullivan, representing the applicant, opposed the request, saying three traffic studies have showed the marijuana store would have no significant impact. He said that since the Planning Board’s hearing began, the number of dispensaries in the state had risen from 94 to more than 200 and traffic has ceased to be an issue.

Clearly there’s not going to be a traffic problem and not one that will require a police detail,” said Sullivan.

Condition 5 of the board’s previous approval gives the authority to request a traffic study should it become needed within the first three months of the store’s operation. Clapp’s proposal offered a rewrite of the condition, making it a requirement, though he said his client was willing to reduce this to two months.

During the meeting the board discussed some of the finer points of Condition 5 and if it was agile enough to respond to a sudden traffic surge. Board member Greg Walsh felt the language—which called for the board and police department to agree a detail is needed—would take too long to resolve any issues. Sullivan took issue with the claim that the board could simply require a detail if the data didn’t show a need.

All the studies show that traffic is minimal,” he said. “Now all of a sudden you’re making a decision based on an attorney making a comment. You have no substantial evidence before you and such a decision would be arbitrary and capricious and would be overturned in court.”

Condition 24 of the approval gives authority to an agent of the board, the police chief, and building inspector together to enforce the other conditions without the need for a meeting. It was agreed that this provides the agility needed if an immediate decision was needed. The board amended Condition 5 to remove the Planning Board and police department from the process and give authority for traffic details to a board agent, police chief, and building inspector. If a situation did not warrant immediate action, it would go before the board.

A motion was made and approved to close the public hearing process. The amended language will be approved at a future meeting.

The changes would allow for traffic details any moment at any day, so expect to be very rapid in our response,” said Town Planner Gil Hilario. “We’re not going to wait until the next Planning Board meeting.”