Five-Leaf Remedies granted zoning approval

Jason Addy

A local medical marijuana company hoping to open a growing and processing facility in York City was given a green light Thursday by the city’s Zoning Hearing Board.

Five-Leaf Remedies was granted a zoning variance after the company’s advisers, investors and team members successfully convinced the three-member board that the proposed site on East Poplar Street could not easily be used for another purpose within zoning regulations.

Several Five-Leaf members told the board that it would be nearly impossible to turn the former tobacco and sewing factory, located in a residential zoning area at 213 E. Poplar St., into a residential building, as it has 8-foot-tall ceilings.

Converting the building, which was built about 1930, into a large-scale industrial property would also present many challenges in meeting current zoning regulations, Five-Leaf members said.

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A group of investors is looking to turn this warehouse in the 200 block of East Poplar Street in York City into a medical marijuana facility. Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

Because medical marijuana in Pennsylvania was legalized less than a year ago, many municipalities are trying to find ways to incorporate new medical marijuana facilities into their zoning ordinances, said Christina Kauffman, public relations director for Five-Leaf Remedies.

Unlike many other municipalities in the state, York City’s zoning ordinance does not have a “catch-all” provision to provide for scenarios that are not explicitly expressed in the ordinance, said Frank Countess, attorney for Five-Leaf Remedies and CGA Law Firm, leading to Five-Leaf Remedies’ request for a variance.

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The York City Zoning Hearing Board granted Five-Leaf Remedies a variance after a 2-1 vote, with Michael Miller and Franklin Williams voting in favor of the variance and Benjamin Michael voting against.

State application: With zoning approval in hand, Five-Leaf members will now work to polish the company’s application to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Kauffman said.

Kauffman said Five-Leaf members spent much of Thursday working on the company’s application in the “war room” set up in her kitchen, and they will now try to put on finishing touches before submitting it by Monday’s filing deadline, Kauffman said.

“We want to make sure the application we’re presenting puts the best possible face on what we think is a beautiful application,” Kauffman said.

The state Department of Health announced in December that it would grant up to two grower/processor permits in each of the six regions throughout the state. It has been accepting applications for permits since Feb. 20.

Five-Leaf Remedies is among several groups in York County seeking a state-issued medical marijuana permit.

Hellam Township officials recently voted to approve Viridis Medicine LLC's proposal to build a grower/processor facility at 6287 Lincoln Highway, while a York Township couple has stated  intentions to apply to open a medical marijuana growing and processing facility in Windsor Township.

Hellam Twp. OK's conditional use for medical marijuana facility

Five-Leaf members said they feel they are in a “David vs. Goliath” situation, as their application will go up against numerous applications filed by out-of-state companies with hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in medical marijuana facilities.

Still, the group feels it has a leg up on its well-funded competition for a permit.

By setting the company up as a benefit corporation, which legally requires certain levels of community charity, presenting a complete set of plans to the city and the state and engaging the York City community, Kauffman said Five-Leaf members have done everything they can to distinguish themselves among the hundreds of applications.

But for now, the group must wait to see if it did enough to win a highly coveted permit from the state.

Kauffman said state officials have indicated grower/processor permits would be awarded toward the end of the summer.