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Wes Ritchie, co-CEO of New England Craft Cultivators, giving a presentation to local residents at the Pepperell VFW Post 3291
Wes Ritchie, co-CEO of New England Craft Cultivators, giving a presentation to local residents at the Pepperell VFW Post 3291

PEPPERELL — The Planning Board Monday granted one final continuance on New England Craft Cultivators’ special permit application until Sept. 15.

NECC’s Co-CEO Wes Ritchie requested one the continuance to see if the town would either achieve six off-site consumption liquor licenses or have enough pending to reach six. Because the Planning Board appears to be moving ahead with the interpretation of recreational marijuana dispensaries being based upon 20% of the licenses actually issued, they cannot grant two special permits.

Planning Board Advisor Lisa Davis said the town currently has three licenses approved, with two pending. A sixth applicant has expressed interest but not formally applied. She spoke against granting an additional extension on the special permit decision because of the uncertainty over a sixth applicant.

“I don’t think that makes sense because it could come in next week or it could come in next month or it could come in six months from now and since there’s no way of knowing, I don’t think at this point there’s really any reason for the Planning Board to continue,” Davis said.

Ritchie said he was not trying to persuade the board based on the merit of the application, rather, the extension was the position of his company. He said the company had spoken with two of the applicants.

Davis advised there was “no advantage” to doing so saying there was not an application or any paperwork pending for a sixth license. She advised the Planning Board’s decision needed to be guided by their interpretation of the bylaws. However, the decision to grant an extension was up to the board she said.

Planning Board Chairman Chuck Walkovich opened the floor to board members for deliberation, with the understanding NECC could withdraw at the end if they saw fit.

Members Joe Lonergan and Al Patenaude concurred the bylaw should be interpreted as 20% of actually issued liquor licenses. Both expressed empathy for the company’s situation and said they were open to an extension.

Member Joyce Morrow said her position remained the same and believed the town’s recreational marijuana bylaw should be based upon 20% of liquor licenses available. Morrow said the number did not fluctuate the same way it would with active licenses.

Associate member Jennifer Gingras concurred with Morrow and supported the extension.

“The 30 day extension, I think, would be appropriate if the board makes it a condition that it be the last continuation. So no further continuations after that,” Gingras said.

The Planning Board will have meetings before Sept. 15, however, members chose the date to allow for a reasonable amount of time to see if conditions change.