ST. PETERSBURG, Fla -- Developers in St. Petersburg hope to give new life to an aging warehouse on 39th Avenue North. Right now, it’s tucked behind a barbed wire fence and no trespassing signs, but if they get the go-ahead from city commissioners, it would be transformed into something St. Petersburg has never seen before.
"If we're going to do it, let's do it right,” said Mirela Setkic. Her parents live 200 feet from the property. She says up until a few days ago, after contacting the city about the project, she and her family had no idea the warehouse, once overgrown by weeds could start growing weed.
"It was just kept very generic, a commercial greenhouse, that could be anything. Are you going to grow cabbage? Cucumbers? Or marijuana? Big difference,” she said.
The developers say the plans are public record, and didn’t keep any of it secret. They say the greenhouse will employ about 75 people. They are excited about being within city limits.
Setkic says she isn't against medical marijuana, but feels there's a lack of transparency. St. Pete staff recommended Wednesday the St. Pete Development review commission approve the project, but there were a few things the board needed clarification on.
One of the biggest concerns is odor coming from the warehouse, with neighbors living literally right across the street. They also want to know the group's security plan, and how they plan on lighting up the property and parking lot.
She says a lot of the neighbors don't speak english, and work two jobs making it hard to show up to commission hearings.
"Just to think that five years from now if they want to sell their house and no one wants to live next to a marijuana greenhouse they may not be able to sell it,” said Setkic.
The developers say they understand there is a fear of the unknown and want to be good neighbors. They say their security guards will be on property 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are former veterans with lots of training. But they also don’t think all of their security plans should be made public. They plan on asking the city if they can meet privately, or redact some of the more detailed plans for protection.
Setkic is also worried about money being on the premises, and whether that is a target for criminals. The developers say there will be NO cash on the property - the cannabis is grown in the warehouse, and then a vehicle pulls into the building, the door closes and the product is loaded up. After that, it’s taken to a dispensary where it’s sold and paid for in cash.
They say lighting will not be an issue for residents nearby - they will install more lights, and have them face the building, not the neighborhood. They also have technical information from another facility in another state to prove odor will not be an issue for the neighborhood.
The developers say, while they wait for state approval from the Office of Medical Marijuana Use out of the Florida Department of Health, they are going to grow hops for beer.
The developers go before the St. Pete Development Review Commission on July 11 with the information commissioners were asking for.
If the project passes the group will still need to get a state license to cultivate and process medical marijuana.