NORWALK, Conn. — Fine Fettle, a Connecticut-based cannabis company, was approved Wednesday to open a location in Norwalk and will become the first recreational cannabis retailer in the city.
Ben Zachs, Fine Fettle’s chief operating officer, said that the company currently has four locations in Connecticut, including a hybrid medical/retail location in Stamford.
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted almost all in favor, with Commissioner Richard Roina abstaining. Commission Chairman Lou Schulman voted in support of the project but said that it is “not necessarily a business that I would personally support.”
“I am very pleased that the use of marijuana has been decriminalized,” he said, adding that he was “sorry that it wasn’t done” many years ago due to the harm it caused many communities.
He said that he didn’t feel that he had a choice to vote against the project since the Commission previously passed regulations allowing the sale of recreational marijuana, while Roina, said that “for all of the reasons that” Schulman said, “I’m abstaining, I can’t vote yes.”
The cannabis retailer will be located at 191 Main St., at the former Garavel used car dealer, which is near the intersection of Main Street and New Canaan Avenue.
Fine Fettle has received a provisional license from the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, but they must have their final floor plans also approved by the state, according to Attorney Adam Blank, who was representing the applicant.
The property is about 17,525 square feet and includes an existing 1,630 square foot two-story building. The plans call for adding 800 square feet to the building, although only 630 square feet would be used for retail space, with the rest serving as storage and office space.
Zachs said that the retail location would be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Blank said that the building and property have 360-degree camera coverage for security purposes and it’s a “limited-access facility,” so people can’t just walk into the vault or storage section.
“They get most of their orders online, with pickup times so they’re able to manage the site fairly well,” Blank said.
Zachs said that about 80% of their customers pre-order online. Transactions that are ordered online take about 2.5 minutes, he said, and if a customer comes in to buy a product, it takes about five minutes.
Blank also said that this specific location was cited as an “ideal location for a cannabis facility” when the regulations were being drafted.
“We’re not located within the minimum feet of incompatible uses,” he said. “We’re not within a mile of any existing cannabis establishment…We meet all of the requirements for cannabis retailers.”
Blank said that the site will “look a lot prettier” after the upgrades are made.
Zachs estimated that there would be about seven to 11 employees on site at a given time. He also said that they would be recruiting from Norwalk and have a goal to recruit at least 50% of their employees from areas that had been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
He also said that employees go through training and have a right to refuse service to someone who is visibly under the influence.
Zachs emphasized that there is “no consumption of anything on our property,” both inside and out.
“This is not a consumption lounge,” he said.
The only concern raised by Commissioners and the sole member of the public who spoke was around traffic flow out of the site, particularly when drivers attemptto make a left turn onto Main.
“I think at a minimum we should talk about that left turn restriction at the exit,” Commissioner Mike Mushak said.
Mushak said that he can see someone trying to make a left turn becoming a “conflict point” with someone coming around the turn from New Canaan Avenue because “the sight line there is so short.”
“If you spend any time there, it’s a very busy intersection all the time,” he said.
Blank said that there is a back driveway onto New Canaan Avenue that they were thinking about reopening, and if that was approved to be reopened they would restrict the left turn out onto Main. However, initial comments from the Transportation, Mobility, and Parking department asked to keep that closed.
“We’re at the mercy of TMP on that,” he said.
Mushak said that he wanted the exit looked at again, and there was a line in the resolution requiring the applicant to “work with TMP to implement and address” comments.
“The Dunkin’ Donuts is the poster child for bad traffic flow in and out and I’ve seen so many rear-ended accidents there,” Mushak said, referring to the business across the intersection.
Elena Scalfani, who owns the chiropractor building across the street at 188 Main St., said that after hearing Mushak’s traffic-related comments, it made her think that this could cause some more traffic challenges to an already problematic area.
“Some of our patients have gotten into automobile accidents,” she said, about the Main Street area.
David Sullivan, the applicant’s traffic engineer, said that that is why they were thinking about reopening the driveway to help “give relief to the intersection if TMP thought it was a good idea.” He did say that if the department said to keep the driveway closed, but then there was a problem, they could come back for a “new driveway permit.”
First, but not only?
Before the Fine Fettle application was approved, the Commission opened an application for another cannabis retailer, Shangri-La CT at 430 Main Ave. That application was continued to the May 3 meeting, at the request of Attorney Liz Suchy, who was representing the applicant.
“One of the principals of Shangri-La is not able to attend tonight,” she said, adding that she thought it was important they heard from him. She also said that she wanted to make sure there was proper notification to the neighbors.
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Kelly Prinz, formerly Kelly Kultys, is the founder of Coastal Connecticut Times.