Clean Technique, Inc. (L-R) Kevin Wong, Robert Parvere, Tym Wowkand Tony Gallo. (Photo by Amy Porter)
*This article by Amy Porter originally appeared in The Westfield News on May 22, 2019. Sapphire Risk was fortunate to assist the marijuana processing company with their city council permitting hearing*
WESTFIELD, MA – The Planning board convened a public hearing Tuesday for a special permit and site plan for Clean Technique, Inc., a marijuana processing business to be located at 32 Char Road, close to Airport Industrial Park Road. Rob Levesque of R.Levesque Associates said the request is for reuse of a light industrial building for a scientific-based cannabis processing facility. Levesque said the plan proposed nomajor changes to the structure and site.
The site is zoned Business B, which is allowed for marijuana production. The special permit is required because the property abuts a residential neighborhood within 300 feet and is on the aquifer. Levesque said the closest residence is 240 feet from the business. Other abutters are Industrial and Rural Residential zoned.
The founders of Clean Technique, Inc., were present at the public hearing and spoke to the project.
At the hearing and in the narrative in his application, biochemist/engineer Robert Pervere said Clean Technique is comprehensive scientific facility dedicated to the extraction, isolation and purification of therapeutic compounds within cannabis into a pharmaceutical quality cannabis oil, which will eliminate excess materials with no inherent value or that with no inherent value or that will pose a threat to health.
Parvere said the group wants to use their strong scientific and academic backgrounds to increase the quality of legal cannabis currently making its way into the Massachusetts market. He said the team has a combined 36=plus years in life sciences, pharmaceutical and health care businesses, with extensive research and development, quality control, sales and marketing experience, most recently with Fortune 500 companies. He also said the team has been the best of friends for more than 20 years, and shares a passion for the cause of ensuring quality to protect consumers.
Planning Board questions centered on practical matters such as security and transportation, many of which were answered by Tony Gallo, a security consultant who said he has designed security systems for 50 cannabis facilities. He said there would be 49 cameras installed and five security monitors for managers and the security team. He also discussed security access procedures and outdoor lighting, which he said would be pointed downward, and fencing for the rear of the property which abuts residential zones.
Gallo said the company would use F350 cargo vans for a daily delivery of their product, which would be transported out in high density plastic containers. He also said transportation is addressed in the security plan provided to the Planning Board.
Many questions were also addressed to the security of the ethanol on the premises, which Parvere said would be used in the winterization of the product to purify the oil, and not in the extraction. They anticipate using eight gallons per week, or 35 gallons per month of the ethanol, which will be stored in sealed containers in a fireproof room away from other materials.
Cheryl Crowe, who served as chair pro temps at Tuesday’s meeting due to the absence of William Carellas, asked whether they had backup power for the ethanol storage. She said she lived in that area of town, and in recent years had lost power for multiple days. Parvere said generator backup for the storage room was not in place, but said they would add it to the plan. Philip McEwan said the submitted plan is for existing conditions, and they don’t expect to change anything in the building. He said since the building is located on the aquifer, and has a lot of impervious cover, he would like to see what little is left maintained.
Also addressed were concerns from the Planning Board about vapors, air filtration systems and disposal of waste product, which the team said is wooden fiber. Also addressed were anticipated hours of operation, and numbers of employees, which will be eight to start with a potential of up to 20 employees. Existing parking at the business is for 30, plus two handicap spaces, City Planner Jay Vinskey said. Kevin Wong, sales and marketing vice president for Clean Technique then gave an impassioned address to the Planning Board. He said Parvere and he had 18 years between them in the Life Sciences field, and their main interest is to bring the pharmaceutical-level quality control into cannabis production. Wong described it as a proactive approach to fill a gap prevalent in the industry. He said both he and Parvere have young children, and from a business and personal standpoint would not feel okay about negative impacts on the community.
Wong said they plan on building a scientific company of exceptional quality to fill a significant need. “We want to hear what you want to say. Give us this opportunity, and we will not disappoint you,” he said. Opening the hearing to the public, a Bucks Pond abutter who wished to remain unnamed, said she was concerned about safety in the neighborhood, where there are many children who ride bikes to trails in the back of the properties. She said she was concerned about fires, and didn’t think the building was large enough to contain flammable liquids. She said she was also concerned about the environmental impact on Bucks Pond and its wildlife.
The neighbor also said she was concerned about increasing truck traffic, adding that she has difficulty exiting her driveway due to tractor trailers who stop along the road at all hours and said the road at all hours, and said she has called the Westfield Police Department a number of times about it. She said she didn’t believe the driveway of the business was large enough for a truck turnaround, since it had been divided into two properties by the previous owner.
Bernard Puza asked team members how often Clean Technique would have tractor trailers coming to their business, and they said never.
Mariah Kurtz, a Southampton Road resident, spoke in favor of the plan. “This sounds like an excellent opportunity for jobs,” she said, adding that traffic comes along with being a resident in an industrial area. “This sounds like a very innocuous use,” Kurtz added. She said the cannabis business comes with a stigma, but speaking as a young person, she was in favor of this proposal and its opportunities.
“She is absolutely correct. This is the lowest kind of use you could put in that building,” McEwan said. The public hearing was continued until June 18. Crowe said she would like to see a more detailed drawing of truck access and turn radius on the property, and of the fence towards the abutters. She also requested plans for back-up generators.
Vinskey asked that they look at whether there would be any opportunity to remove impervious surfaces.
Following the meeting, Kevin Wong said the team chose the space because it’s a laboratory. He said although the business would be for recreational use, “If you’re going to get this cannabis product, everything should be medical,” Wong said, adding that quality control is a pressing need in the industry.