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Permits approved for marijuana store and cultivation business at Eastfield Mall

The former Macy's department store at the Eastfield Mall is where Diem Springfield is proposing to operate a marijuana retail and cultivation business.

Marijuana would be grown on the second floor, sold on the first floor of the former Macy's store

Permits for new marijuana businesses have been approved by the City Council in Springfield, where the burgeoning cannabis industry has been slow to make inroads.

After months of delay, as some on the Springfield City Council questioned the process the city administration used to recommend new marijuana businesses, the Council voted Monday night to approve special permits for both a retail and a cultivation operation in a former Macy’s store at the Eastfield Mall and for a retail business on Main Street in the Indian Orchard neighborhood.

However, the Council again postponed a vote on a controversial cultivation facility proposed in East Springfield.

The vote to approve the special permit for what could be the first marijuana cultivation operation in the city at the former Macy’s site came after Christopher Mitchem of Diem Springfield assured Councilors that odor from the growing marijuana plants will not spread to other parts of the mall.

“I want to put my name on the line here and personally guarantee that there will be no odor issues,” Mitchem said. “I can say that with confidence because it is a very solvable problem.”

He said his company will use the latest odor-control technology.

“The way we design grow rooms they are very tightly sealed,” Mitchem said. “On the off chance there is an odor issue remaining we can absolutely address that by adding more carbon filters to make the odor issue go away.”

The special permit for Diem Springfield includes a provision for $200 per day fines for violating the odor mitigation plan. City Councilor Jesse Lederman questioned if Springfield’s code authorities are prepared to enforce it.

“I think it is important we have cultivation in the city of Springfield, but as we are considering two cultivation facilities right now I want to understand how we’re able to enforce the condition relative to the odor control plan that is proposed for both facilities,” Lederman said.

A proposed storefront retail marijuana establishment at 479 Main Street in Indian Orchard was also approved for a special permit.

The Council voted 8-3 with two abstentions to again postpone a vote on a proposed $20 million marijuana cultivation center on Page Boulevard. City Solicitor John Payne said the law department will prepare an opinion on whether it was permissible for Page Cultivate to alter the plans for the project after its application was submitted in order to avoid a possible zoning violation.

“I do have some concerns that we don’t go too far overboard on this until we have a good grasp on this because I am concerned obviously that litigation could result and the city could face some potential financial consequences from that standpoint,” Payne said.

Questions about the fairness of the system the city administration implemented to evaluate, score, and rank potential marijuana businesses led to an investigation by the city auditor, who concluded in a report last December that the process was objective and fair but marred by errors in execution.

During a two-hour special meeting, Councilors examined internal documents and questioned city officials who took part in the reviews of prospective marijuana businesses.

Councilors conceded the delays have cost the city money and jobs in the new cannabis industry.

More than 300 licenses have been issued statewide by the Cannabis Control Commission. Springfield has two recreational marijuana stores and a medical marijuana dispensary.

Special permits have been approved now for five additional marijuana retail locations.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.