Zoners Light Up Billboard Proposal, Snuff Out (For Now) Pot Farm

Webster Bank Arena
Planning and Zoning approves plans for new electronic billboard at Webster Bank Arena.

The Planning and Zoning Commission Monday night approved the application to install a mighty electronic billboard on top of the Webster Bank Arena opposed by Lamar, the national outdoor advertising company that wants the billboard limited solely to promoting arena events. Billboard supporters say the billboard serves as both a revenue generator and city image booster. Zoners also rejected the initial application of a Fairfield man who proposed a warehouse farm in response to the state’s new law allowing distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. The medical industry is sorting out process and compliance in the law’s infancy.

Brian Lockhart of CT Post reports:

By this time next year, an East Side warehouse could be at the forefront of Connecticut’s new medical marijuana frontier.

And it’s not that far out–or far away.

In fact, it would be at 50 Hastings St., where Rob Schulter, a self-described Fairfield entrepreneur, has plans to grow and sell weed wholesale out of a renovated building to treat symptoms of cancer, AIDS and other debilitating diseases.

Tommy Chong, Cheech Marin
Yeah man, let's go before zoning.

“Everyone has been touched by someone who has had a need,” Schulter said, citing his mother’s recent death from cancer and a cousin’s battle with the disease.

Schulter has the support of Mayor Bill Finch’s administration, but his initial application was shot down Monday by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Members said Connecticut’s medical marijuana law is still too new and they need more information about regulation and oversight.

“We are still hopeful that we can get the approvals necessary to be able to operate in Bridgeport,” Frederic Ury, Schulter’s attorney, said afterward.

But despite the serious intent of Ury’s proposal, zoning commission Chairman Mel Reilly couldn’t help but joke that if the place ever caught fire, crowds would be “gathering around and inhaling.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in June signed a bill making Connecticut the 17th state to legalize medical marijuana. On Oct. 1, the Department of Consumer Protection began accepting applications from residents for temporary permits.

The regulations governing the growing and distribution system will not be ready until July.

The law limits the number of growers to a minimum of three and a maximum of 10. Schulter wants his local zoning permits in place so when those strict rules are finalized, he can be among the first in line.

“We’re really trying to be proactive and as far ahead as we possibly can,” Ury told zoning commissioners.

Schulter would lease space at 50 Hastings St., growing an estimated 100 pounds of marijuana annually to licensed distributors and employing a staff of around five. Under state law, he would pay a $25,000 licensing fee and a $2 million performance bond.

David Kooris, head of Bridgeport’s economic development office who attended Monday’s meeting, said the city had been in discussions with Schulter for about six months.

Kooris said he is indifferent to what Schulter wants to cultivate.

“The fact is, this is a viable, private sector business at one of our vacant industrial buildings we’re having a challenging time filling,” Kooris said.

Because of pot’s reputation, Schulter in an interview acknowledged he was not going out of his way to draw attention to his plan. The zoning commission agenda, for example, said his application was for a “year round hydroponic plant cultivation business.”

And it was a couple of minutes into Monday’s presentation before marijuana was mentioned.

Commissioners are concerned about having adequate security and ensuring Schulter employees would not steal his crops. Schulter and Ury said surveillance cameras will be installed, there will be daily inventory, and the state will likely impose a variety of other stringent requirements.

“It’s the old `chicken and egg’ problem,” Edmund Schmidt, the commission’s attorney, advised members when they were deliberating Schulter’s application. “There’s really no road map on how to do it yet.”

Billboard approved

In other business, zoning commissioners approved an application to install a giant electronic V-shaped billboard on Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard.

The proposal was challenged by city-based Lamar Outdoor Advertising and community activist Carmen Lopez.

Charlie Dowd, senior vice president of arena operations, said the sign, visible from Interstate 95, will increase audiences.

“This is not the time to stymie progress,” Dowd told the commission. “We’re making huge, dramatic leaps in the entertainment we bring in and would like to tell people about it.”



  1. Local Eyes Rumor Mill:
    Cheech & Chong said talk to the zoning board, man when asked about that dude from Fairfield–the one with the warehouse–who’s trying to put the FARM before the re-FORM.

  2. I am sure there are buildings available in Fairfield. Why doesn’t this developer take his proposal there? More social conscience for Bridgeport. While I support medical marijuana, let’s grow it somewhere else.

  3. Local Eyes, you never seem to get the big picture. You sit up there in Trumbull and blog stupid shit. How about we put this pot farm on your street in Trumbull? Bridgeport has become the social conscience for Fairfield County and enough is enough. I have a 150 lb Rottweiler that takes nuclear dumps in my backyard every day.

    1. Local Eyes … you continue to be wrong! Correct.
      For instance, the State has been forwarding 80% of the local school operating budget for years and 90% of the capital budget for schools. That’s you, LOCAL EYES, and all the rest of us paying State taxes. WHY? Because the courts have so directed, maybe? I think that is what educational cost-sharing is about. But Hartford and New Haven also have low scores and more ECS money per capita, I believe. Why? Politics? State delegations? Fairfield County blueprint?

      So Governor Malloy takes a different look at the scene, and although I do not know for certain the conversations and planning that have gone into the “educational reform” for Bridgeport in the past 24 months, the least successful are getting attention, and that means money, and that means more oversight, and that means somebody is using some metrics or sense of acceptable accomplishment, just maybe, and applying it to the added expenditure in these cases.

      Because I know you question “rewards for bad behavior” I refuse to spank you for being so obtuse. To get to mediocrity you still need to climb a distance, as does the Bridgeport district. So I look to see you monitoring your State tax dollars at Bridgeport BOE meetings in the near future, so only good behavior, as I expect to be new trends, will appear for reward.

      And if you can help us get some big taxpayers, maybe the City you love to hate will wean itself from large ECS subsidies each year. Time will tell.

      1. JML acts as if spanking me is his option (shrug). Methinks JML’s own public spanking might give new meaning to the term TRANSPARENCY while giving Speedy a chance to gain fame while videotaping the whole thing.

  4. *** When it comes to new ways of collecting city and state revenue, it’s all about the Benjamin$ in the end, good or bad! This city is headed towards a higher power and will end “UP IN SMOKE!” *** ZOMBIELAND ***

  5. Why not put this hydroponic, state of the art, green industry into the vacant Palace and Majestic, grow mushrooms there, put windmills on the roof and fix up the hotel to rent to artists?

  6. “But despite the serious intent of Ury’s proposal, zoning commission Chairman Mel Reilly couldn’t help but joke that if the place ever caught fire, crowds would be “gathering around and inhaling.”

    This is a funny one indeed. On the serious side, consider this scenario:
    One day, we wake up to the news of the discovery of seven people found shot to death in a medical marijuana growing facility in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The preliminary investigation only reveals that apart from the seven dead people in the facility, an undetermined amount of marijuana, a safe and the security video tapes are missing.

  7. Sorry to say but I have to ask. What business do you want? You do not want a hotel/marina/high-end condo thing (brings too many Republicans). No to Walmart (those jobs suck). No to a sporting-goods store (they sell guns). No to a youth detention center (too much riffraff). No to a pot farm (too much graft). God forbid we impugn BPT’s reputation.

    Basically it would seem you want a business that produces no waste, does not care about profits, pays well, will hire from a workforce where 40% did not graduate high school and offers health insurance, housing and child care.

    If you are already a BPT business you need to stop burning coal, get sued to pay more taxes, do what we want or ‘go to hell’ and leave.

    Your answer to education reform is to ELECT a BOE. Get all the same people to do what they did last year.

    Government reform = electing all the people who are currently serving to the same positions.

    It looks like the way to change is by keeping everything the same. It is probably a plot orchestrated by the ‘burbs, the DTC or the people who killed Kennedy.

    1. BOE SPY,
      Hope you got everything off your chest. Or cleared your bile ducts. Coughed up a full load of phlegm?

      Or do I see a screed full of half-truths? Ending with a ‘dead’ Kennedy comment?

      Perhaps this was written by someone who can keep track of multiple viewpoints that appear when a variety of subjects are discussed, but is easily confused when attempting to make sensible connections. At some point the dissonance is so great the person disgorges the entire disparate lot, offered at different times, by different people, with different goals in mind and lays it on the doorstep and tiptoes away.

      Educational reform is underway in the City.
      This BOE has three people who were ‘appointed’ and now have been ‘elected’ close to some sort of compromise, and the public has understood they are ACCOUNTABLE for educational outcomes and Mayor Finch is also ACCOUNTABLE for delivering the money necessary for changing the trends of local educational outcomes.

      And nothing will ever be the “same” same after November 6. May look like it between cycles, but some folks are just plain older, and others get bolder, and the financial ground shifts underfoot, and people are reminded of what they get as well as fail to get from their representatives, especially when revaluations are completed, when taxes increase, when City Council members seek their vote, and their kids proceed through another year of school with ??? progress. Time will tell.


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