Marijuana businesses are boosting Georgetown’s tax base, but they come with complications the town did not anticipate.
The Board of Selectmen this month approved a five-year host agreement with GreenBridge Health of Wakefield to establish a growing facility at 16 Carleton Drive. It will be the second cultivation site in the town of about 8,200 residents. Healthy Pharms opened a grow facility and a medical marijuana dispensary at 401 East Main St. in May.
The two facilities are both off Route 133, a mile apart near Interstate 95.
Selectmen Steven Sadler was the lone vote against the host agreement for GreenBridge. Throughout negotiations, he expressed concerns: “We are going too fast in uncharted waters. I hope we are making the right decisions. We will be the first small town [in Massachusetts] to have two marijuana [cultivation] companies.”
Plymouth has one grow facility, and a second is being constructed. Somerville is the only city in Massachusetts that currently has two facilities open — both dispensaries — according to the state Department of Public Health.
Three small businesses that serve young people — Archers Artemis, International Martial Arts, and CrossFit 133 — must move out of the Georgetown business complex because they are within 300 feet of the 51,000-square-foot portion of one of the buildings GreenBridge plans to lease. Under Georgetown bylaws, marijuana facilities may not operate within 300 feet of a business where minors commonly congregate.
“Three thriving businesses are being displaced because the marijuana business means a great deal of money to the town,” said Donna Ricci, owner of Archers Artemis. “I have put a lot of money into the physical plant that I can’t take with me if I move.”
The archery center and CrossFit 133 are located in the building where GreenBridge would replace the main tenant, Premiere Recycling, which is moving to Portsmouth, N.H. International Martial Arts is located in an adjacent building in the complex.
Efforts to reach the owners of International Martial Arts and CrossFit 133 were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Healthy Pharms has notified the town that after less than a year, it will be cutting its annual payment by 50 percent because its host agreement allows a reduction if another marijuana company comes into Georgetown. Healthy Pharms’s payment to the town was scheduled to be a minimum of $100,000 this year, $150,000 in year two, and $200,000 in year three.
Anxious to move into Georgetown, GreenBridge agreed to make up the funds the town will lose from Healthy Pharms. The host agreement requires GreenBridge to pay a minimum of $200,000 and up to a total payment of $300,000 annually, based on sales.
Ricci has asked GreenBridge to contribute toward her relocation costs, which are in the $30,000 to $50,000 range, because an archery facility needs to be specially designed, she said. GreenBridge contacted her attorney, and “they had nothing to offer me,” Ricci said.
“GreenBridge’s position is that it is solely between the studio and their landlord,” said Peter Howe, a company spokesman. “GreenBridge Health has no involvement with any property-lease discussions other than our own.”
Ricci was unaware that her business was located in a Medical Marijuana Overlay District approved at the Georgetown 2014 Town Meeting, and that if a facility moved in, she would have to move out.
“No one mentioned to me or my realtor that it was a marijuana zone when I leased the space in 2015,” said Ricci, a Newburyport resident. “It never occurred to me to check.”
Said Michael Farrell, Georgetown’s town administrator: “It is not up to the town to inform her about zoning. She should have done her due diligence.”
Barry Enos, who owns the property, did not return calls seeking comment.
“My argument is not with the town or Barry’s right to get as much money as possible,” Ricci said. “But I entered into an honest agreement with both the town and Barry Enos to create a successful business at that location.”
Joseph Bonavita, Board of Selectmen chairman, said: “I understand her passion. She is fighting for her business.”
GreenBridge’s application now moves to the Planning Board. Plans are for its grow facility to open in late 2018.
“If GreenBridge gets its approvals, the town and Enos stand to get a boatload of money,” said Ricci, and she could face bankruptcy.Linda Greenstein can be reached at greensteinlm