MERIDEN — The city’s Planning Commission will have its first public hearing on a proposal for a recreational cannabis dispensary in the former Clement’s Jewelers building on West Main Street.
Blue Leaf LLC/BGE LLC has filed an application for a special permit to operate a cannabis operation in the recently renovated storefront at 28 W. Main St. Biagio Gulino sought to reserve the name of the business from the state and his father Ross Gulino, who owns the building, is a partner in BGE LLC.
Ross Gulino is also a member of the city’s Planning Commission, and recused himself in discussions and votes over how to regulate the cannabis industry in the city after the state legalized recreational cannabis on July 1. After imposing a three-month moratorium to work out details, the City Council was scheduled to vote on those regulations Tuesday night. The public hearing on the West Main Street application is scheduled for today at 6:30 p.m in City Council chambers.
“It’s my son, who has lived in downtown. He meets all the criteria,” Ross Gulino said. “Right now, we’re just trying to get the location approved.”
Ross Gulino is a managing partner for BGE and a money partner in Blue Leaf, but his son Biagio Gulino will operate the business. The state is in the process of outlining its requirements for dispensary licenses and residents of Meriden, considered a social equity municipality, can get ahead of the line. Having an approved location will help move Biagio Gulino’s application further along, Ross Gulino said.
“They’re trying to give back to (communities) hit hard by drugs,” Ross Gulino said. “But (Wednesday’s) meeting is about the location. It’s already legal, I’m trying to put it in a location that is going to drive economic development.”Rules, perception
Under state law, the city is eligible to have three recreational and three hybrid —recreational and medical— dispensaries. But members of the City Council Economic Development, Housing and Zoning Committee voted to limit the number to three total dispensaries on a first-come basis. They also overruled the Planning Commission’s recommendation that the dispensaries be at least 1,500 feet from each other, like package stores, and restricted them to within 2,500 feet of each other. Both panels agreed to allow dispensaries in the city’s commercial zones and transit-oriented districts as opposed to creating overlay zones for select parcels. Landlords, as well as licensed operators are eligible to submit applications.
Ross Gulino declined to comment on the commission’s recommendation or the committee’s revisions and will recuse himself from a vote on the special permit application.
As a downtown landlord, Ross Gulino has worked with tenants to occupy empty storefronts on West Main and Colony streets. He helped launch the Downtown Coffee Shop, the Silver City Gun Shop at 30 W. Main St. and businesses at 5 Colony St. He split the storefront at 28 W. Main St. and plans to renovate the space in an art deco style. The building is just east of the Meriden police-court complex, which he said should help alleviate any concerns about a recreational cannabis business.
“I’m trying to remove all the perceptions of seediness that people might believe comes with cannabis,” Gulino said. “I want people to have a safe place to do business. It’s right next to the police station. If that’s not safe, then where?”Foot traffic
When asked about parking, Gulino replied there were three municipal lots within easy walking distance. People who park in a lot can pass the coffee shop, Mr. Bentley’s Jamaican restaurant and an ice cream shop at 55 W. Main St.
“When you go to West Hartford, you don’t park in the front of the building,” Gulino said. “The whole idea is to generate foot traffic. This is another reason to go downtown.”
Gulino expects some flap for his involvement, but he and his son are especially excited about edibles, drinks and other cannabis products. He added that on-premise consumption will be forbidden and it’s up to him and the business to enforce it.
City Economic Development Director Joseph Feest said the location meets all the needs of a city dispensary. The 2,500 foot distance requirement would rule out any other operation in most of the downtown area, he added.