Town Board passes on support of medical marijuana facility

Jack Van de Wetering speaks at a Riverhead Town board meeting Tuesday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
Jack Van de Wetering speaks at a Riverhead Town board meeting Tuesday afternoon. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The Riverhead Town Board declined to offer a resolution in support of a Baiting Hollow farmer’s application to grow medical marijuana on land on Edwards Avenue.

The issue was defeated by an informal 3-2 margin Tuesday. 

Ivy Acres owner Jack Van de Wetering and his son Kurt are planning to submit an application to the New York State Department of Health to grow up to 10 acres of marijuana in a 30,000-square foot greenhouse on their 22-acre Baiting Hollow property.

On Tuesday, Jack Van de Wetering spoke before the Riverhead Town Board, hoping to convince them to pass a letter of support for the venture.

He said the proposal would create up to 100 high-paying jobs.

“If it doesn’t happen here, it will happen somewhere else,” Mr. Van de Wetering said. “It’s going to happen because it is the law.”

In June 2014, New York became one of 23 states to legalize the sale of medical marijuana.

Supervisor Sean Walter has voiced opposition to the measure because he feels it is part of an “incremental approach” to legalizing marijuana outright.

Councilman George Gabrielsen said the Edwards Avenue site is near homes and growing marijuana in a greenhouse will produces odors in the neighborhood.

“To me, the issue is location,” he said. “You can’t expose the neighbors to those kind of odors.”

The town also didn’t have enough time to study the proposal, he said.

“This has to be vetted in the community,” he said. “They have to have a chance to speak on this. We would be irresponsible as a board to approve this. You should come to us three months ago.”

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she only received the volumes of information on the proposal last week and couldn’t be expected to make a decision in just five days.

Councilman John Dunleavy said he was originally opposed to the plan, but changed his mind after researching it.

“This helps sick people,” he said.

Councilman Jim Wooten also supported the measure.

“I think it’s a good idea because it’s for medical use,” he said.

But the proposal didn’t have the support of the board majority.

“This is probably an individual choice from each of the board members here,” Mr. Walter told Mr. Van de Wetering. “I don’t think you’re going to get a [supporting] resolution from the Town Board, so if you deal with each individual board member, you may get a letter.”

Mr. Van de Wetering said afterward that he plans to submit the application without Town Board support.

He said he doesn’t need support from the Town Board and was only seeking its approval as a courtesy.

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