Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg council to delay action on proposed Allison Hill dispensary

An artist’s rendering of the current vacant lot (left) and the proposed dispensary (right).

Harrisburg City Council took a second look on Tuesday night at a proposed medical marijuana dispensary for Allison Hill, opting to delay approval of the building plan.

This was the second council workshop examining the proposed facility for 137 S. 17th St. At the first meeting in late October, council members urged dispensary officials to engage the community before moving forward.

Peter Bio, CEO of Local Dispensaries LLC, described the subsequent Nov. 13 community meeting at Hamilton Health Center as productive and informative.

“The main feedback was that we would have liked to have heard about it earlier,” Bio said. “There were a lot of questions over how we would impact the community. I didn’t hear anything that couldn’t be overcome.”

Bio estimated that 30 to 40 people attended the November meeting, asking questions ranging widely from employment to security to crime.

A related company, WH RE LLC, wants to build a 3,000-square-foot retail dispensary directly across the street from Hamilton Health on what now is an empty lot.

About a year ago, the state Department of Health awarded a dispensary license to Local Dispensaries. City Council has no authority over licensing but must approve the land use plan for the proposed building.

WH RE LLC hopes to break ground on the facility in spring and estimates a four-month-long construction process, opening next autumn.

During the council meeting, Bio admitted that his company’s outreach efforts had been lackluster and that they should have held community meetings earlier, before the urging of council members.

“We didn’t think about going immediately into the community at that time,” he said. “The meeting where you suggested that was extremely helpful.”

Bio vowed that his company would continue to reach out to residents, perhaps through fliers or pamphlets, and that he would seek first to hire employees from the immediate Allison Hill neighborhood.

“There were a lot of questions about jobs—would you bring jobs or just bring someone in from the outside,” Bio said. “I said, ‘You’ll just have to trust us. We did it before and will do it again.’”

He also said that his company might make changes to the building design or the grounds based on community feedback.

Council instructed Bio to continue his outreach efforts but did not set a date for a final vote on the land development plan. Councilman Dave Madsen said that he planned to keep the resolution in his community and economic development committee for the time being pending clarification over the proposed dispensary’s compliance with state Department of Health regulations.

“You can see the passion in the community,” Madsen said. “They want to know what’s going on.”

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