Vassalboro official had ordered marijuana growing business to close prior to fire

VASSALBORO — The marijuana cultivation facility that was destroyed by an accidental fire Monday was unlicensed by the town of Vassalboro and had been ordered at the end of January to vacate the building within 60 days.

In a letter dated Jan. 25, Ryan Page, Vassalboro’s code enforcement officer, informed Patrick Waibel, owner of GameBred, that he had 60 days from the date of the letter to stop all unapproved medical marijuana cultivation at the building at 647 Webber Pond Road.

The business has apparently run afoul of the town’s marijuana business ordinance that is now nearly a year old.

Vassalbor businesses un approved approved an ordinance that went into effect in February 2021 that bans all marijuana-related they are in lawful operation or had received site plan or building permit approval for their use before the effective date of the ordinance.

Page said GameBred had not undergone a site plan review, and he and the town’s lawyer had been working with the business and its lawyer on a site plan approval.

Page noted in his letter the town has also not received an application for a license from Waibel or property owner Richard Jose.

The most recent site plan on file with the town, dating to 2008, was for a paintball business.

Attempts to reach Waibel and his lawyer Thursday were unsuccessful.

Correspondence on file with the town of Vassalboro shows Page had been in contact with Jose in October about the violation of the marijuana business ordinance, and noted the only resolution was to close the business.

Three weeks later, Page sent a letter to Waibel about installation of electric service in the chicken barn at 647 Webber Pond Road, noting it was consistent with what was needed for a marijuana growing facility. Page wrote in his letter that the Vassalboro Police Department had passed along information about Waibel’s cultivation facility and license from the state.

Page also informed Waibel at that time that marijuana growing facilities are a commercial operation. In Vassalboro, all commercial businesses require Planning Board approval. Page urged that Waibel contact him about his plans for the building.

Page said after that, Waibel’s lawyer, former state lawmaker Kenneth Fredette, had contacted him, and they toured the facility Jan. 13.

In his Jan. 25 letter, Page confirmed the only resolution was to close the business. He also said Waibel could challenge the decision to the town’s Board of Appeals within 30 days of the notice.

Page said Thursday no appeal had yet been filed.

State fire investigators said the blaze that destroyed the building was caused by an electrical problem at the building.

In a GoFundMe post seeking support following the fire, Waibel wrote he had hired a licensed electrician to do the building’s wiring.

Firefighters douse a blaze Monday at a building at 647 Webber Pond Road in Vassalboro. Formally the location of a paintball business, the structure, described as a complete loss, was being used to cultivate marijuana. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Waibel started the GoFundMe campaign Wednesday in the effort to raise $40,000 to help him and his two employees survive and rebuild the building.

“We are a mom and pop company with 2 full time assistants, and we don’t have the means to rebuild on our own,” he wrote.

The blaze drew firefighters from Albion, Augusta, China, Chelsea, Waterville, Windsor and Winslow.

When firefighters arrived, flames were reportedly coming from a front corner of the building. The fire spread into the roof and attic area of ​​the 1 1/2-story building. The roof later collapsed.

The building has been declared a complete loss.

The town has valued the property at $624,000 for property tax purposes.

Flames roar through the roof of a building Monday at 647 Webber Pond Road in Vassalboro. Formally the location of a paintball business, the structure, described as a complete loss, was being used to cultivate marijuana. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

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