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Akron considers sale of White Pond land to medical marijuana dispensary

Akron Councilmembers Russ Neal and Shammas Malik
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Akron council members Russ Neal (left) and Shammas Malik speak during a community meeting about a proposed medical marijuana dispensary at Zwisler Hall on Nov. 1, 2023.

Nearly one year since the approval of acontroversial housing and retail development near wetlands on Akron’s west side, city officials are considering selling the land next to it.

The property is currently a vacant plot of grass and trees. The proposed new business involves a different plant.

Klutch Cannabis, an Akron-based medical marijuana business, is requesting to develop an office building, drive-thru dispensary and retail spaces for other businesses to rent out on the 2.6-acre plot.

The site is located off of Frank Boulevard and White Pond Drive, next to a planned 65-acre mixed-use apartment and retail development called White Pond Reserve.

City council approved that project last year despite concerns from residents about the disruption of wildlife habitats and increased traffic in an already busy area

In a community meeting Wednesday, Pete Nischt, vice president of compliance and communications at Klutch, said his business is not affiliated with White Pond Reserve or its developer.

Klutch currently operates a production facility in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood, as well as two dispensaries in Canton and Lorain. They are looking for a space to place their headquarters as their business continues to expand, Nischt said.

“We really just want to be located here in Akron,” Nischt said. “We would like to have a flagship store here in Akron. This is where we’re from.”

There is a need for a dispensary on Akron’s west side, Nischt added. Currently, medical marijuana patients who live on Akron’s west side must travel to the east side or down to Canton, he added.

Currently, there are five dispensaries and 4,298 medical marijuana patients in Akron, he said.

More than 50 community members attended a meeting at Zwisler Hall in the city’s Wallhaven neighborhood Wednesday. They asked Nischt and city officials questions about the proposal and discussed feedback in small groups.

Ward 8 Councilmember Shammas Malik and Ward 4 Councilmember Russ Neal, who represent the wards in which the project is located, helped organize the meeting and spoke with residents. At-large councilmembers Jeff Fusco and Linda Omobien also attended.

Many of the residents asked questions about Issue 2, a statewide measure on the ballot this November that would legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio.

If Issue 2 passes, Nischt said recreational marijuana could be incorporated into Klutch’s dispensaries, but he estimated it would take almost a year before state and local regulations are finalized.

Fairlawn Heights resident Richard Schwartz, who said he lives near the property, is concerned about the added traffic the dispensary could bring.

“The number of people who would be using or frequenting the project, the development, and the impact of who these people are going to be, in terms of, are they going to be recreational users or marijuana patients?” Schwartz said.

Some of the attendees were not necessarily opposed to the Klutch proposal but wondered if it would exacerbate the longstanding concerns over the White Pond Reservedevelopment, which is close to breaking ground, said Marissa Little, a Wallhaven resident.

“We kind of do have to talk about all the developments that are happening around, because that includes safety concerns [and] increased traffic,” Little said.

Little helped organize the meeting and moderated the question-and-answer session with Nischt.

“Akron residents show up, and they want to be informed, and they want to know about the process, and they want it to be transparent,” Little added.

When asked to hold up a green piece of paper if they’d like the project to be approved, a yellow piece for undecided or red if they were against approval, most attendees held up yellow sheets.

“That, to me, signified a need for continued conversation. People still needed their questions answered,” Little added.

Little collected written feedback from attendees and plans to submit it to the city’s planning commission, mayor’s office and city councilmembers.

Klutch's proposed development will be presented in a public hearing at the city’s planning commission Nov. 17. If the planning commission recommends the project for approval, there will be another public hearing at a future city council meeting before councilmembers can vote on the proposal.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.