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City Commission Advances Medical Marijuana Grow Site

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The city’s zoning and planning commission on Tuesday approved two measures that helps one of the state’s first medical marijuana cultivation centers to move forward.

The commission voted 4-0 to recommend that city council approve a waiver for Riviera Creek LLC that would allow the company to operate a regulated use business within a 500-foot radius of another regulated use facility.

Riviera Creek wants to develop a medical marijuana cultivation plant at 1275 Crescent St. in the Riverbend district.

The waiver was required because another operation – Heidelberg Distribution at 1265 Crescent St. – is regulated by the state since it distributes wine.

A second measure that was approved by the commission — but does not require council’s approval — awarded a conditional use permit to DeSalvo Construction Co. Inc. so it could continue work on Riviera Creek’s building.

Daniel Kessler, chief operating officer of Riviera Creek, said the plan is to initially develop 25,000 square feet of growing space in the 72,000 square-foot building, formerly occupied by Maui Toys. The company, once owned by Kessler’s uncle, Riviera Creek CEO Brian Kessler, was sold several years ago and the building has remained vacant for about a year and a half.

“We’ll be hiring locally and using local construction workers,” Kessler told the planning commission.

The operation is to include some of the most advanced growing and cultivation technology available in the industry, Kessler said. And, the building will be equipped with high-security fencing, cameras and lighting inside and outside the premises.

“We’re truly on the cutting edge of the industry,” he said, and added the company is receptive to developing new technology in conjunction with researchers at Youngstown State University.

Kessler said construction should be done by the end of August, just before the state would conduct an audit in order to certify the grow site. Actual production of the plants could begin in September.

“I’d say most of the equipment would be in by late June,” he said.

The company plans to invest between $10 million and $15 million into the operation over a five-year period.

Riviera Creek was among 12 companies initially granted a Level One growers license from the state to operate an indoor medical marijuana cultivation facility. Riviera has also applied for a processor’s license, which would allow the company to convert the plants into tinctures, oils and edibles. The company would then distribute the products wholesale to retail dispensaries across the state when they are approved.

Kessler said he expects the state to make a decision related to processors sometime by the end of June.

Should Riviera Creek be awarded both licenses, then employment at the facility could be as high as 300, the Kesslers told The Business Journal last week.

Employment, he noted, would grow as demand in the state improves. Riviera Creek has partnered in medical marijuana ventures in Nevada and Connecticut, and demand started slowly in those markets but gradually increased.

Level One licenses allow the company to expand their cultivation footprint from 25,000 square feet to 75,000 square feet.

“This is a tightly controlled market,” Kessler said. “It’s a great opportunity.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.