The Plympton Board of Selectmen met virtually on Monday, Feb. 22. Much of the meeting was spent on an appointment with Nick Rizzo to informally discuss steps to acquire a Host Community Agreement (HCA) with Plympton to establish a cannabis business in town. Rizzo, who is originally from Kingston, is a veteran who will be retiring from the military in May. Rizzo said his partner John White, who is also originally from Kingston, has been in the cannabis industry for eight years running a cultivation facility in Maine. “We feel that these businesses can be a really positive part of a community… we want to build a local, sustainable business that is energy conscious and is pretty small in scale,” he explained.
Rizzo explained a bit about his specific proposal saying they were hoping to run a cultivation facility consisting of several greenhouses to start. The facility would not be public facing and Rizzo said they would sell their product to other establishments in the State. Rizzo said he had investigated the Plympton bylaws and had spoken with several property owners in the industrial zone regarding potential locations. The preferred location is one on Spring St. right off the highway.
Rizzo said that he had a previous proposal for a retail establishment in Kingston a year and a half ago that fell through. “If this is something that you all really don’t want in Plympton, I’ll respect that; I don’t want to waste your time or mine,” he explained.
Russo asked about impact in terms of noise and odor. Rizzo said that noise should not be an issue as they won’t be operating any heavy equipment with the exception of the initial construction. He also said that the specific greenhouse they would like to use has an odor mitigation system. Selectman John Traynor asked about size and Rizzo said he was hoping to start with a 5,000 sq. ft. greenhouse and eventually expand to 10,000. He also said he was expecting to initially employ 5 full time employees.
Selectman Christine Joy asked about the concern over the amount of water needed to run the facility. Rizzo said that they had considered that but told the selectmen that his partner, who was unable to attend the meeting, was the true horticulturist. Regarding electricity, Rizzo said he feels that most people getting into the cultivation business are sinking money into unsustainable buildings. He noted that the wholesale price of marijuana was likely to decrease as it moves closer to federal legalization and said that businesses with high operating costs won’t be able to survive. “From a business perspective we would love to get into solar,” Rizzo explained.
Town Treasurer Colleen Morin asked Rizzo what the anticipated profit to the town would be, but Rizzo said he was not yet prepared to discuss revenue numbers. He said that in other towns they had negotiated three percent of gross annual sales.
Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Ken Thompson, who was on the call, said he had the opportunity to talk at length with Rizzo and was impressed with his breadth of knowledge. Thompson said that he was aware of the 2-acre property Rizzo was interested in and noted that it was between other industrial businesses. He shared his opinion that it would have little impact on neighbors.
“For me personally, I’m not a big fan of marijuana but I’m here with an open mind to listen and I appreciate your proposal and your very frank answer to our questions,” Joy said. “I appreciate you being honest with me too,” Rizzo said. Russo said that several years ago another grow facility was proposed but was met with considerable resistance from residents. “It was pretty controversial, and it was a bit of a struggle,” Russo explained. “I, at least personally, could imagine being excited about this,” Russo said of Rizzo’s proposal. Traynor told Rizzo that he felt that the selectmen owed it to Rizzo to let him know exactly what information they need from him in order to move forward. Russo told Rizzo that they would be in touch with him.
Rizzo ended his time before the selectmen with a short story about how he became involved in the industry. He told the selectmen that almost 20 years ago his brother was killed. He said that his mother tried many things “to learn to live with her new reality.” “I’m not going to tell you that cannabis fixed her problems but I will say that when it came to nightmares and things that pharmaceuticals couldn’t seem to fix, we saw some glimmers of hope in cannabis and it turned a lightbulb on in my head where I thought okay, what will all of this look like in twenty years when perhaps people are able to be more open about how it might help especially in a more controlled setting,” Rizzo explained.
Dave Alberti who serves on the ZBA and the Bylaw Review Committee and Vicki Alberti who serves on the Open Space Committee asked to share their opinion with the Selectmen. “I would just like to say as residents of Plympton and a user of medical cannabis that I would welcome a grow in Plympton; I think it would be really good for the town and I just want the Board of Selectmen to understand that I think the majority of the town would probably feel the same way,” Vicki explained.
The Board also took care of several appointments and reappointments in town. Judy Dudley was reappointed to the Community Preservation Committee through June 30, 2023. Russo said, “She’s been a loyal and active member of the Community Preservation Committee.” Dave Bugbee was appointed to the Wage and Personnel Board through 2023. Art Morin was appointed as the coordinator of Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) through June 30, 2023.
Town Administrator Liz Dennehy said there is a workshop on March 10 for the Hazard Mitigation Grant. Dennehy said she is working with Area 58 to have them provide a Zoom link as well as having it broadcast on TV. “People can watch the workshop and learn about what we are trying to put into the plan,” Dennehy explained.
“As far as COVID goes, our numbers are coming down a little bit,” Dennehy told the Board. She said that a smaller surge was anticipated following February vacation.
The selectmen shared their raves for the past few weeks before adjourning. Joy said her rave was for Nick Rizzo. “Him coming in with his presentation… when he told the story at the end, I definitely know what he is talking about; I’m glad that his mother was able to find some peace because that was just a horrible thing and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy,” Joy said. Russo said that his rave was for the same. “However we decide… about a marijuana grow facility, I salute the youthful, energetic, forward looking, well spoken, just kind of a refreshing approach,” Russo said. Traynor said his rave was for getting his vaccine at the Marshfield Fair grounds.
“It is the most professional way of doing it; they just have it well mapped out and I’m very supportive. If anyone is thinking about getting a shot and they can get to Marshfield, that’s the place to go,” Traynor said.