AYER — Selectmen ended a local businessman’s attempt to open a marijuana-cultivation facility with a tie vote.
Chuck Saba, of Be Well Organic, requested a letter of non-opposition from the board on Tuesday. His plan was to purchase the property at 31 Willow St. and retrofit it for growing and processing medical marijuana.
Chairman Gary Luca voted no. “I wasn’t for the last facility,” he said. “I don’t want the moniker of Ayer being a pot town.”
A dispensary on Central Avenue is licensed. It has been in town about six months, Carly Antonellis, the assistant to the town administrator, said before the meeting.
Another growing facility has provisional approval for a location on Fitchburg Road, Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand said during the meeting.
At first, he was opposed to marijuana businesses in town, said Selectman Chris Hillman, who voted to sign the letter. But communities in Colorado have benefited from the additional revenues.
He did want to negotiate a host agreement with Be Well if the selectmen signed the letter.
Saba said he was willing to negotiate and would prefer to spend profits left at the end of the year on benefiting the community rather than paying a 70 percent tax.
He was not willing to promise exactly what the company would be able to give, though. “You don’t know what you’ll have at the end of the year,” he said.
“We need to get the most for our community,” said Hillman. “I think we might be getting into something good for the community.”
Helping veterans, seniors and children are his priorities, Saba said, but would listen to what the town needs.
“I feel like we get that spiel because we’re a military town,” Hillman said.
After hearing about the connection between Devens and Ayer, Saba said he had not been aware of Ayer’s ties with the military. He said that marijuana was being looked at as a medication for post-traumatic stress problems.
The business would pay property taxes and would employ between 15 and 50 people. The growing facility would have used Ayer’s water supply with very little wastewater, Saba said.
He needed a letter of non-opposition by the end of the month so the project could move forward.
Selectman Jannice Livingston was not at the meeting. Hillman and Luca decided to vote without her. The tie vote meant Saba left without the letter he wanted.
Saba was with his son, Charles. The Sabas are part of the family that owned Bishop’s Restaurant in Lawrence. They opened an Armenian restaurant, Bishop’s Legacy in Lowell, a year ago.
Follow Anne O’Connor @a1oconnor on Twitter and Tout.