Proposal for cannabis business at Wilton bowling alley lacks application

Mike Collins bowls July 2022 at Meadow Lanes Bowling Alley in Wilton. Frank Berenyi, owner of MarijuanaVille in Waterville, has proposed buying the property and using part of it for a medical marijuana dispensary but he has not filed an application with the Planning Board. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal file

WILTON — With no application filed to convert part of the Meadow Lanes Bowling Alley into a medical marijuana dispensary, the future of the building remains uncertain.

The bowling alley at 907 U.S. Route 2 is for sale.

Last month, the Planning board held a public hearing on the issue but with no application from potential buyer Frank Berenyi, owner of MarijuanaVille in Waterville, it was moved to July 6. Because it was not on the agenda, there was no discussion.

At the June public hearing, Berenyi said he planned to convert part of the bowling alley into a dispensary and keep eight of the 16 lanes open. The dispensary would occupy 3,000 square feet, have have a separate entrance and strictly be a retail space for medical marijuana.

Berenyi’s said his original intention was to use the entire space for retail and cannabis cultivation. However, upon visiting  the bowling alley he had a change of heart.

“I went in there, and everybody was bowling, a bunch of older people,” he said. “I felt bad.”

Moose Alley in Rangeley and Sugarbowl in Carrabassett Valley are the other bowling alleys in Franklin County.

Wilton resident Michael Lilley said there are five marijuana businesses in the area and a sixth would be unnecessary.

Berenyi said Meadow Lanes is the only property that fit Wilton’s ordinances for medical marijuana retail shops.

“I’ll be honest with you, if you guys have another building, I would gladly step away and do that,” he said. “There isn’t. This is not me.”

The Select Board is assembling a committee comprised of selectpersons and Planning Board members to reexamine ordinances, after Town Manager Perry Ellsworth had second thoughts about adopting a moratorium on all cannabis licensing.

Berenyi said he didn’t believe a bowling alley was the most financially feasible option for the location.

Jeff Chaisson, co-owner of Ambition Brewing and a member of a bowling league for over 20 years, disagreed.

“I don’t buy the talk of this not being a feasible business,” Chaisson said. “I think (the owner) has done just fine with the business. I think it needs some update, and it does need some investment and some rejuvenation.”

Berenyi said if the building doesn’t break $200,000 to $300,000 a year off a $400,000 investment, it is not worth the risk. “You could put a self-storage unit there that would make more money than a bowling alley,” he said.

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