SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — The owner of the long-vacant Showcase Cinemas building on Route 114A in Seekonk says he’s willing to drop the retail component from a plan to turn the old movie theater in a marijuana grow facility.
Charles Tapalian, who recently purchased the former Showcase property, made the comments at a heated informational meeting where residents sounded off about the proposal.
“I would have no problem with changing our concept to just growing at the Showcase and shipping it to Boston, or shipping it to wherever,” Tapalian said.
The original plan was for Maine businessman Jamie Crumb to lease the building and turn it into a cultivation faciity, mainly to supply other retail stores but also to sell the cannabis on site in Seekonk.
The problem is that the property is not in the designated zone for marijuana businesses, called a “marijuana overlay district,” located in an industrial area off Route 6. Therefore, Town Planner John Aubin says the voters of Seekonk would need to approve a zoning change in order for the Showcase to become a marijuana facility.
Voters who showed up to the informational meeting at the Dublin Rose on Wednesday night expressed a wide range of concerns with the retail sales proposal, from traffic to proximity to schools and neighborhoods.
“The idea of having it right there next to so many residential homes, I mean there’s hundreds of people that live there. and I wouldn’t want it next to me,” Town Selectwoman Michelle Hines said at the meeting.
She questioned why Tapalian wasn’t building a facility in the industrial area already zoned for marijuana.
“The town voted for that,” Hines said.
“Why are we burying it?” Tapalian said, referring to the location of the marijuana zone in a non-residential corner of town. “Why are we burying everything?”
Barrington resident Troy Paiva agreed. He attended the meeting because he hopes to be a customer of a potential retail cannabis store in Seekonk.
“I just love it so much and think it should be out there,” Paiva said.
But Tapalian ultimately relented, telling the townspeople he mainly wants a cultivation and processing facility, and would be willing to forego retail sales.
“After tonight, it seems like there is some interest in having this as just strictly a cultivation and processing facility,” said Crumb. “After tonight we have to go back and talk about some things and figure out what our next move is.”
Crumb said he hopes to have about 50,000 to 60,000 square feet of growing space inside the building. The plan is to build a second floor inside, since marijuana plants don’t require the high ceilings of a movie theater.
Separately, Tapalian also applied for a zoning change for the property behind the Showcase, where he owns the Greenbriar Apartments. Tapalian proposed to expand the residential area and add 102 townhouses to the Greenbriar property.
On Thursday, Tapalian told Eyewitness News he was pulling the plan for the townhouses and will build more apartments instead, including affordable units.
A special town meeting will still be held on February 4 at 7 p.m. at the Ramada Inn, just to vote on zoning change for the previously proposed condos. The marijuana proposal is not being considered at that meeting.
Tapalian was criticized for offering a $500 voucher to current residents of the Greenbriar Apartments to attend the town meeting about the townhouses. He quickly reversed course amid the outrage.
“I rescinded it when everybody went nuts,” Tapalian told Eyewitness News.
Town Selectboard Chairman David Andrade said the town-wide vote would not be cancelled despite Tapalian’s change of plans.
“There were 199 other signatures on the petition asking for the extension of the multifamily overlay district, therefore the meeting will continue as planned,” Andrade said.
Tapalian has not yet submitted an application to the town of Seekonk for the marijuana zoning change.