Proposed medical marijuana facility gets conditional use approval in New Garden
● By Richard Gaw
A business concept that would bring as many as 160 white-collar jobs to New Garden Township just cleared another hurdle on its way to becoming a reality.
By a 3-1 vote at their Jan. 22 meeting, the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors gave conditional use approval to 380 Starr Road, LP that helps further clear the way for Matrix-PA, LLC to establish a medical marijuana cultivation and manufacturing facility in Landenberg, located in a 107,000-square-foot building that sits on 12 acres on Starr Road.
After a one-month delay in finalizing their decision, the board reached an agreement with the property owner, Nicholas DeSanctis, a principal with Vedic Holdings, a Bryn Mawr, PA based commercial real estate company. The agreement contained several conditions, which DeSanctis has agreed to. Receiving conditional use approval was the first step for Matrix-PA, LLC before it can officially begin business in Landenberg. The company will also need to obtain an operating license or a clinical research license from the state, which it hopes to apply for the license in the near future. DeSanctis said that he is also looking to find an operating partner who is aligned with a medical teaching and research university.
After state licensing, the facility will grow, process and manufacture oils and various other state approved products from marijuana plants with THC along with a combination of other molecules known as cannabinoids, or CBD, which is commonly being used as a medical supplement to decrease the physiological effects of anxiety; improve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder anxiety; reduce arthritis, chronic and muscle pain, and pain caused by Multiple Sclerosis; and to alleviate the side effects caused by cancer treatment.
THC combined with CBD is also being studied as an anti-seizure drug; as a possible treatment for epilepsy; and as a medicinal choice for those suffering from neurodegenerative disorders that cause the brain and nerves to deteriorate over time, such as Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and strokes.
During a conditional use hearing before the board on Sept. 17, DeSanctis spoke about the advantages of establishing a medical marijuana cultivation and manufacturing facility in Landenberg. The company, DeSanctis told the board, will bring as many as 160 professional jobs to New Garden, increase tax revenues for both the township and local school districts, and make the township a key research center for medical marijuana.
It will be operated by David Tuttleman, a Wilmington, Del. resident who is currently the chief executive officer of Matrix NV, a Nevada-based medical marijuana facility.
As stated in the agreement, the cultivation and processing business meets the provisions of the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act, and applicable regulations established by the Commonwealth's Department of Health. Under the guidelines of the agreement, all growing, storing, harvesting or processing of medical marijuana will be limited to the interior of the building, and it will be fully secured at all times, and protected by a professionally-monitored security and surveillance system.
The agreement also states that all medical marijuana waste generated by the facility will be stored, collected and transported in accordance with state code, and no waste will be stored outside the facility.
The facility, which has been leased by W.L. Gore and Associates since 2008, is currently occupied by about 250 employees, and has provided verbal notice to DeSanctis of its intent to vacate the facility after its current lease expires.
In other township business, the board gave conditional use approval to the application of Mahmood and Lorraine Samii to open a convenience store and check cashing facility at the corner of Baltimore Pike and Newark Road in Toughkenamon.
The property falls within the Toughkenamon residential zoning district, and sits on about a half acre that includes two residences, an office building and 20 parking spaces. The office building, where the business will be conducted, provides 1,590 square feet of office space and is split into two floors. Previously, it had been used as a doctor's office.
Of the several conditions stated in the conditional use approval document, the two that drew the most objection by the applicants was the provision that they install sidewalks along the Newark Road frontage or make a contribution to the township to pay for the installation of sidewalks adjacent to the business, and meeting all access and traffic control provisions set by the township's subdivision and land development ordinances.
The costs associated with meeting these conditions, Ms. Samii told the board, would greatly prohibit her husband from opening his retail business. She also said that she and her husband were not told that “the burden” of the costs associated with these projects – such as engineering consulting fees – would be theirs to pay.
The Samiis said that they received conditional use approval from the township's Zoning Hearing Board in 2009, and that there have been no changes to the configuration of the property and its structures since then.
The counter argument, the board pressed, may not be in the fact that the property has not changed, but the roads that intersect with the property have, and that sidewalks should be installed and parking should be upgraded to accommodate a busy intersection, not to mention a steady stream of vehicles and pedestrians who plan to visit the store.
“The only thing that I can gather that may have changed is in the access to traffic control, and that's the traffic on Baltimore Pike,” Allaband said. “You're saying that's not changed in ten years?”
Is there enough parking and curbing for cars needing to back out onto either Newark Road or Baltimore Pike? Solving that dilemma, Mr. Samii told the board, should not be on his business radar.
“I'm not doing a land development, I am doing a change of use,” Mr. Samii said. “A sidewalk 50 feet along my property doesn't change anything. It's 50 feet of frontage along Newark Road.”
After further discussion, the board gave conditional use approval for the planned business, with amendments that waive having to pay for the installation of a sidewalk.
Including the condition in the Samii conditional use approval comes with a bit of irony, given that on Feb. 2, 2018, Gov. Wolf announced that the state will be investing $41.5 million to repair 45 highway, bridge, bike and pedestrian, and ports and waterways projects in 22 counties through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Multimodal Transportation Fund. Among those improvements, $2 million is being earmarked for improvements to the Baltimore Pike/Newark Road intersection, including signal modernization with pedestrian signals and emergency preemption, road realignment and widening, new turn lanes, increased turning radii, ADA-compliant sidewalks and crosswalks, and access management.
In other business, the board also passed Res. 806, which appoints three members to the township's Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB). Thomas Brodowksi will serve a three-year term; Richard Zimny will be re-appointed as an alternate member for a one-year term; and Daniel Furlano will serve as alternate member of the ZHB for a three-year term.
The board gave preliminary land development approval for the installation of four self-storage units at the corner of Newark and Starr roads, which will be owned and operated by DE Storage. The company already has seven self-storage locations in Delaware.
The board agreed to pay for two repairs to the historic Lyceum Hall, not to exceed $1,025 and $1,200, respectively. The repairs will be for the structure's gutters and floors.
The board also awarded long-time township resident Tom Lafferty with a plaque that recognized him as the township's 2018 Volunteer of the Year.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.