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Chester County Press

Proposed medical marijuana facility is facing last round of questions

05/08/2017 10:16AM ● By J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

There may someday be a medical marijuana growing facility in East Marlborough Township, but the process of getting the first one built is being rigorously examined.

At the third of three meetings to discuss the proposed building, which is slated to be put on a now-vacant piece of land at 532 N. Walnut Road, attorney Randy Schauer answered questions raised at previous zoning hearings. In front of the East Marlborough Board of Supervisors and a large audience of neighbors on May 3, Schauer called Jim Fritsch, a civil engineer with Regester Associates in Kennett Square, to testify about the proposed plans.

The property is just over 9 acres, in the Limited Industrial District, and sits to the east of a mushroom processing facility. The applicants – Enrico Avello, Jr., and Enrico Avello, Sr. – are seeking conditional use approval for the medical marijuana growing and processing facility, which is allowed by state and federal law.

Because of the location of the property, the applicants are seeking to build a driveway through the adjacent Alonzo & Alonzo mushroom facility so that vans and small trucks – not tractor-trailers – may access the facility. They are also seeking a waiver to build a fence around the facility.

The original conditional use plan indicated a 73,700-square-foot building with additional greenhouses, but the new plan shows a single building of 49,896 square feet with no outbuildings. There will be parking on the north side of the building for 66 cars, and a loading dock on the north side of the building.

After a request by the Fire Marshal, the plan now has fire lanes added on the north and south sides of the building, meeting a requirement, Fritsch said, to get fire coverage within 150 feet. Public water is being proposed for the facility, as well as public sewer, pending a capacity study. An existing stormwater basin in the northeast corner of the property will be slightly modified to serve the new facility.

Lighting for the parking area will be installed, and there will be no signage other than a small address sign by the access road. The building will be under 35 feet high, but the exact height has not been determined. It is proposed to be 226.8 feet north to south, and 220 feet from east to west.

Supervisor Bob Weer had questions about fire equipment access, even with the two additional fire lanes, saying that the roads would be clogged if more than one truck was responding at a time. Weer also pointed out that a townhouse development is being proposed to the east of the facility, coming within 60 feet of the property line. There is also a subdivision plan for land to the south of the processing facility, Weer said.

Fritsch said, “We have shifted the building north, away from there, and won't be cutting any trees there, so there should be more than enough to screen the building from adjoining properties.”

The building is placed about 10 feet from the east property line because township regulations call for a standard “front yard” setback that must be complied with. Since the processing facility faces the mushroom facility, there really is no front yard, and Fritsch suggested that if a waiver was granted, the developer could shift the building to the west by several feet, away from the proposed housing developments.

Neighbors – mostly from the Hadley's Mill Run development that sits across Walnut Road from the proposed facility – questioned whether the fire company could reach the east side of the building, given the placement of the fire lanes.

One neighbor, who asked that his name not be used, came with documentation about the deed to the mushroom facility, saying that there is a discrepancy that would not allow access to Walnut Road. Schauer countered that the access road would be allowed, and that he had the paperwork to prove it.

The resident then called Avello, Sr., and directed pointed questions at him about his federal firearms license, his home address and business licenses, and the phone numbers he provided on his federal firearms license. Schauer objected to the questioning, but Avella testily answered each question.

Henry Fisher, another Hadley's Mill Run resident, asked the Avellas how their facility would positively impact the community, a stipulation that is listed in the application for those interested in starting medical marijuana growing facilities.

Avella, Jr., when told that he could choose whether to respond to the question, said, “I choose not to.”

Fisher then said he had several reservations about the proposed facility, including security, fire protection, screening of the building for nearby residents, and traffic safety on Walnut Road.

At the end of the hearing, Schauer pointed out that, “We've been here for three meetings, and we're not hiding anything. This use is permitted by the state and by the township.” He did say that “The application is somewhat under seal at this moment” in regard to some aspects of the plan.

East Marlborough Township solicitor Frone Crawford thanked the participants, saying, “This is a complex issue and there has been a lot of testimony for these three nights. We thank you. The chance to review all this material is very helpful to this board.”

The public can submit any memorandums or complaints to the board before May 26, Crawford said, and the board will render its decision on the conditional use application at the regular meeting on July 10.

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To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].