FALL RIVER — In somewhat of a departure from recent community meetings centered on proposed cannabis businesses, a majority of those who attended Thursday’s meeting of the South End Neighborhood Association voted in support of a planned cultivation facility on Kilburn Street.
Regeneration LLC’s plan is to convert the mill building at 394 Kilburn St., most notably used as the home of Korber Hats, into a multi-use building that would house a cannabis cultivation facility and possible retail space for non-cannabis businesses.
Thursday was Regeneration LLC’s second time going before the neighborhood association. A roughly two-thirds majority of residents voted in favor of supporting the company’s plans, a fact that SENA Secretary Sue Mathias said she found surprising.
“We had a lot of questions asked and they answered all of them. There were good questions brought up and at the end we took a vote and it was overwhelmingly in support of the facility,” she said.
Regeneration LLC is one of 13 companies in various stages of opening or expanding cannabis-related businesses in Fall River. A majority of these companies have already held similar community meetings, but more often than not, city residents in attendance have been against the incoming facilities.
A June meeting to discuss the dispensary planned by the company Agricultural Healing saw an organized group of Lewiston Street residents saying they opposed the project due to their concerns over how it would affect traffic patterns.
An August meeting devoted to the two dispensaries that New Leaf Enterprises hopes to open was highlighted by similar traffic and parking concerns. That meeting also revealed frustration from some residents who saw New Leaf CEO Peter Fernandes’ personal connection to federally indicted Mayor Jasiel Correia as an indication the company’s plans were a “done deal” that wouldn’t take resident concerns seriously. Fernandes is the brother of Correia’s live-in girlfriend.
Though already approved for recreational sales by the Cannabis Control Commission, Northeast Alternatives, Fall River’s only dispensary open for adult-use sales, has started attracting the ire of its neighbors. Roughly 30 people who live along the small dead-end street behind the dispensary attended this month’s meeting of the city’s Traffic Commission. The group has co-authored a petition requesting the city add new no-parking signs, increase police traffic details, commission a traffic study and require Northeast Alternatives to shuttle customers to the dispensary from an off-site parking lot.
One difference Regeneration LLC has going for it is that it only plans to build a cultivation facility, which wouldn’t draw the lines of customers that dispensaries have seen.
“I was pretty surprised (at the vote) with all this controversy about all the marijuana facilities, but this isn’t retail. This is growing and processing,” said Mathias, who explained that some South End residents voiced concerns similar to what other Fall River residents have expressed in different parts of the city.
“People were worried about traffic and they assured the neighborhood and said there would only be a few trucks going in each week,” she said. “Some people were worried about the smell, but they went into detail and had an engineer there to talk about the system they’re using so none of the smell gets outside.”
The idea of bringing new tax revenue into Fall River, Mathias said, was one benefit South End residents seemed to rally behind. Perhaps even more enticing, she said, was the prospect of what else the factory renovation might entail.
Regeneration LLC CFO Tricia Fields told The Herald News last month that only the top two floors of the Korber Hats building would be used for cannabis cultivation and processing. The lowest floor, Fields said, could be used as a potential yoga studio, juice bar, community center, or kayak rental service.
“It enticed the neighborhood by saying they’re going to allow access to Cook Pond, that they will build a ramp so people can go boating,” said Mathias.
Community outreach meetings are required by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission. Companies must hold such meetings before the state can grant licenses.
What made Regeneration LLC’s meeting even more unique was that it was held before the company received a letter of non-opposition or community host agreement from the city. Those two documents are required before a company submits an application with the CCC, but there are no state or local regulations forcing community meetings to be held before local officials sign applications.
In a recent interview with The Herald News, state Rep. Carole Fiola said she is working on a bill that would require cannabis companies to have meetings with community stakeholders prior to the signing of host community agreements and letters of non-opposition.
“Just last week, there was a company fulfilling its obligation for…