Gloucester has 3 pot shop proposals in pipeline

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff photoFresh Fields, an affiliate of the Energy North-Gloucester corporation that runs the Mobil station on Gloucester’s Essex Avenue under CEO Jeff Black, has filed an application and is in talks with the city over its proposed recreational pot retail shop at 65-73 Essex Ave.

GLOUCESTER — The ownership team that has run the Essex Avenue Mobil station for the last six years is seeking to convert it into a retail recreational marijuana outlet. Another team is seeking to open a retail pot shop on Bass Avenue and a third is closing in on permits to run a cultivation and manufacturing facility in the former Gloucester Engineering building in Blackburn Industrial Park.

All are trying to meet demands of a new city zoning ordinance that limits the placing of pot businesses within Gloucester’s boundaries and constrains the number of retail outlets to three.

And all three proposals come on top of one well down the road. Happy Valley Ventures was grandfathered in for a retail shop elsewhere in the Blackburn park through receiving approval in 2017 for a medical marijuana outlet there. The Newton-based company is completing construction on a manufacturing facility within the park as well.

A Tewksbury-based company called Fresh Fields, an affiliate of the Energy North-Gloucester corporation that runs the Essex Avenue Mobil under CEO Jeff Black, has filed an application and is in talks with the city over its proposed recreational pot retail shop at 65-73 Essex Ave.

James Destino, the city’s chief of administration, has been handling talks with any and all pot shop applicants. He said the Fresh Fields proposal tentatively appears to meet the site guidelines and other limits set by the city’s ordinance, including one that bans any shops from within 500 feet of a K-12 school. The site sits across the river from and is within sight of Gloucester High School.

“We’re still negotiating,” Destino said, referring to talks with Black and his colleagues about a state-required host agreement that spells out payments to the city based on revenues and other stipulations.

An application in the works for a third retail shop located at 88 Bass Ave. has a hearing Thursday night before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals. That site, currently occupied by Serendipity’s Playhouse (see related story) and owned by the Gloucester-based corporation KTBGM LLC needs variances to meet the city’s ordinance requirements.

“Things have been moving along all along,” he said of the Fresh Fields and other proposals. “We’re certainly open for businesses, and for these businesses to (soon) be open.”

Manufacturing sites

The other business in talks for a host agreement is the California-based firm Ocean Breeze. It is seeking to grow and manufacture marijuana products from the Gloucester Engineering plant now owned by the Equity Industrial Partners, which shares the giant turbine used by the city on that site.

A manufacturing facility is subject to the ordinance’s space requirements of a 2,000-square-foot facility and 20,000 square-foot minimum lot size, Destino said, but there is no cap on the number of growing and manufacturing plants that can located within the city.  

Meanwhile, Gloucester attorney Joel Favazza, who has represented Happy Valley in its city permitting and negotiations, said the company is expecting an inspection this week from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, and hopes to be able to plant its marijuana in its manufacturing building in June. That would set the stage for beginning retail sales by around the year-end holidays, he said.

The company will “only be selling products we have grown and manufactured” at its facilities, he said.

“It’s the first time through for everything, and we have to be sure the plants are successful,” Favazza said. “So we will not be selling from other companies at this time. But the construction is done. We’re ready to go.”

Staff writer Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.