The Halifax Board of Selectmen met on Tuesday, Oct.r 27, for their regular, non COVID specific weekly meeting. Selectman Troy Garron was absent.
The selectmen had an appointment with owner of High Hopes LLC Russell Bogartz, who hopes to open an indoor marijuana cultivation facility in Halifax. Bogartz, who said he spent 20 years as a business analyst, also introduced his CFO as well as the cultivator that would run the proposed facility.
“We are a small company. We don’t have a multi-state presence… we do have a decent investor pool to make it all happen and we do have big plans for the future and are hopeful that Halifax can be a part of that,” Bogartz explained. Currently, High Hopes has spent the last two years working on opening a cannabis dispensary in Hopedale, MA which is set to open in March of next year. Bogartz said that the hope would be to start with a cultivation site in Halifax and eventually open a retail store there as well. Bogartz confirmed with town administrator Charlie Seelig that Halifax does not have a limit on the number of retail marijuana stores that can take up residence in the town.
Selectman Gordon Andrews asked about location and was told they are looking at a few vacant lots near Dunkin Donuts on Route 106. Bogartz said the plan is to construct a building that is roughly 3500 – 5000 sq. ft. In addition to saying that there would be no pesticides or harmful chemicals used in the facility, Bogartz also ensured the selectmen that there wouldn’t be an odor. “You could literally have people be next door and not even be aware it’s there,” he said. “Our goal is to have the smallest footprint possible,” he added.
When asked what the benefit to the town would be, Bogartz answered property taxes. Andrews asked if the facility would even bring in the average amount in taxes as a typical residence in Halifax. Cities and towns can subject marijuana retailers up to a three percent tax on gross sales, but this does not extend to growing facilities.
Bogartz said he wouldn’t want to pay 3 percent to Halifax as he will already be paying it to the town of Hopedale for the retail establishment. Andrews pointed out, “We’ve had growers tell us they’re going to give us a percentage of what they’re grow business is.” “What we could do, there’s lots of flavors of compromise that would make it worthwhile but doesn’t make us get zinged twice for three percent,” Bogartz said.
Seelig told Bogartz that property taxes would likely not be enough of an incentive to abutters to make it worth whatever sacrifice they would have to endure. He said it was unlikely that the abutters would go to a hearing and support the idea if the additional property taxes were the only benefit to the town. “You’ll have to build political capital with the abutters,” Andrews said.
Selectman Tom Millias told Bogartz to come back when they have something more definitive. Bogartz agreed to nail down a location and a plan. Andrews also recommended that they watch the presentation Bud’s Goods and Provisions gave to the town and they agreed.
The selectmen also met with a representative of Area 58 Community Access Media to discuss a new contract. The current agreement between Area 58 and the towns of Carver, Halifax, and Plympton is set to expire soon.
Millias said that the only issue he has is the same one he has always had – a lack of transparency in what people are paying for the service. Millias said that Comcast subscribers are paying for the service on their cable bills and noted that the service is not coming from the town and therefore, they are not paying for it via taxes.
Millias also noted that the service is not clearly labeled on Comcast bills and said he believes it is referred to only as a franchise fee. According to Millias, there is no opt out clause. “I had less of a problem with it before it became available on Youtube… so now the subscribers are paying for everybody,” Millias explained.
Andrews said he would like to see Area 58 begin to provide the towns with a list of which meetings they plan to cover. The representative told the selectmen that if there are any specific meetings that they would like to see covered, they can put a request in through Seelig and Area 58 will do their best to cover it.
It was also said that Area 58 has the ability to host Zoom meetings in order to livestream it for viewers. This is something that has been done for many meetings in Carver. “We are always looking for additional ways of serving the community and are proud to do so and have enjoyed the relationship we’ve had with Halifax and Plympton over the years,” the representative said. Area 58 said they don’t anticipate any changes to the contract other than amending the dates.
The selectmen also engaged in a lengthy conversation about whether to grant recycling abatements for a number of different cases. They denied all those that missed the deadline but were less sure what to do in other situations.
Some claimed to never have received their first bill while others said they mistakenly believed an abatement was good indefinitely. Despite being “sympathetic,” Millias said, “I always think everybody knows this comes around once a year like your taxes.” The selectmen agreed to carry the recycling abatements conversation over to a later meeting.
Seelig told the selectmen that the option to sign up for a Webinar subscription is available for $450 per year. This would help in holding meetings virtually during the pandemic. Seelig noted that if they chose to go this route, if accepted by Plymouth County, CARES Act funds could only cover the cost for the next two months.
Seelig also told the selectmen that the Pope’s Tavern roof project is scheduled to being in the middle of November. The Council on Aging has already been moved over to the police station for the time being.