The Recorder – Country Club Road outcry dominates Greenfield pot moratorium hearing

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GREENFIELD — Nearly 100 residents turned out for a public hearing Tuesday night regarding a petition calling for a moratorium on outdoor marijuana grow approvals until property lines are established.

Comments made at the public hearing, held jointly by the Economic Development Committee and the Planning Board, instead focused on the potential development of three Level 11 cultivation sites at 446 Country Club Road which triggered the request for petitioners’ moratorium.

At-Large Advisor Philip Elmer, who chaired the meeting remotely, told attendees that since the potential project came on his radar, “it’s moved a bit” in terms of stance.

“My first reaction to a letter from a constituent concerned about growing cannabis on Country Club Road was to support the growers,” he said. “As far as I was concerned, marijuana was a cash crop…and Greenfield is a farming community.

Nonetheless, he thinks neighbors have expressed valid concerns, particularly the need to move back property lines outlined in zoning ordinances, and further consideration of the economic impact such development might have on the community.

“I came to think that a moratorium would probably be a good idea,” he said.

Elmer added that his communication with future Country Club Road producers is what ultimately “tipped the scales.”

“The attorney representing them told me … they want to be good neighbors,” Elmer said. “That’s not what I saw. At every turn, the producers seem to have pushed their efforts to the edge of the law. »

What has been proposed on Country Club Road, he explained, is actually a “Tier 33” grow site, consisting of three Tier 11 sites of 100,000 square feet each – the largest size allowed by the law. state law. He noted that the growers – Country Club Ventures, Fibonacci Farms and Greenfield Farma, all of which have signed host community agreements – share a lawyer, business address and company formation date. Former Mayor William Martin acted as a consultant to the three LLCs.

“It’s hard to see this as anything more than a maneuver to circumvent the limits of level 11 cultivation,” he said.

Elmer also expressed concern over the submission of an “approval not required” (ANR) plan just a week after the city issued a notice of public hearing regarding a potential moratorium on approvals for grow sites. outside. The ANR, which was approved by the Planning Board last week, insulates the land from zoning changes that will occur over the next three years.

“According to Greenfield’s legal counsel … the city council has no legal power to override (the ANR),” Elmer said.

The city may, however, review existing ordinances and propose changes that would affect future proposals, depending on the attorney’s response.

Yet the majority of comments made during the nearly two-hour public hearing related to the proposed cultivation sites on Country Club Road. Concerns raised included odor during the growing season, the aesthetics of the security fencing required, and the potential impact that three grow sites would have on neighboring properties.

“To my knowledge, no farmer puts up an 8-foot-tall fence with razor wire,” said resident Brian Hoffman. “So we can’t really authentically compare a pot-growing business to a corn-growing business.”

Hoffman added that people who claim property values ​​increase with nearby marijuana establishments “blur the lines” between dispensaries, where area property values ​​have been shown to increase, and data around the farms, where there is less research.

Resident Nancy McIver shared data she gathered from Level 10 and Level 11 outdoor grow sites in Massachusetts, the majority of which were in areas with fewer than 10 homes. The Country Club Road neighborhood, by comparison, has about 135 homes. The neighborhood is zoned rural residential.

Resident Trouble Mandeson said that while she is “totally pro-cannabis”, she opposes proposals to grow marijuana on Country Club Road.

“Nobody spoke in favor of cannabis,” said Mandeson, who added that she had smoked marijuana for 50 years. “I fully support it, but I also think it has to be done responsibly.”

Mandeson was among a few residents, including Carissa Clifford, who also felt the proposal was a done deal before there was a chance for community input.

“The city made a deal with the jar farm developers even before neighborhood residents were aware of the possibility of something like this being offered,” Clifford said. “We need a warning ahead.”

Clifford was referring to the fact that host community agreements for each of the three entities were signed on January 18, preceding the February 17 community outreach meetings.

“There’s a certain point where the deal is already done, and we’re sitting here making comments … and I really realize that the public actually has no power,” she said. “We’re counting on you, please, to find a better way to make our voices heard before the deal is already done.”

Before closing the public hearing, Elmer told residents they had given councilors and Planning Board members “a lot to think about.”

He said the moratorium on future proposals for outdoor cultivation sites will be further discussed by the Economic Development Committee. The Planning Council will also resume discussion, according to Chairman Charles Roberts.

“That proposal that triggered the moratorium then goes to the Zoning Board of Appeals,” Elmer said, referring to the Country Club Road project. “Like I said, the producers haven’t been good neighbors, and they’ll have another chance to hear from you. The Zoning Board of Appeals may very well take some of your suggestions to heart. I can’t speak for them but… they should hear from you too.

Journalist Mary Byrne can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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