PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Construction is on pace for what could be the first medical marijuana dispensary in the county.
Khem Organics has started renovations to a building on Dalton Avenue, which currently houses Jay's Custom Muffler & Auto, Casey's Billiards, and used to house the Salvation Army store. All three businesses are vacating the facility to make way for the dispensary.
"Our goal is to be substantially complete in about six weeks and we are online for that. We've filed for a building permit and obtained a building permit. It is mostly interior renovations," said Frank DeMarinis, the Sage Engineering president and the engineer on the project.
"It is on schedule to be growing in six weeks and then in about another two months after that to go to sale."
The company filed detailed floor plans with the city and the Zoning Board of Appeals ruled that the changes to expand into additional space weren't significant enough to require another permit. The plans had evolved from originally using about 14,000 square feet of the building, taking over just the Salvation Army storefront, to using the entire building.
"We're occupying the entire building in lieu of Casey's Billiards and the muffler spot in the back," DeMarinis said.
The expanded footprint, however, doesn't come with any increases in volume, he said. The plans previously submitted were conceptual, needed spaces for break rooms, offices, and utility rooms, and it was determined that it needed more space to grow than previously anticipated.
While the company will use more space to grow the cannabis, it intends to produce the same amount per month.
"We weren't planning on increasing production. We were planning to produce the same amount," DeMarinis told the ZBA.
The move does reduce the required number of parking spaces from 54 to 45, but DeMarinis said the company is still sticking with the same plan for parking. The ZBA was particularly fond of the changes because it makes the entire building one use, and not multiple.
"I think it is a better environment not having Casey's there and having it be a one-use facility," DeMarinis said.
Casey's Billiards uses the most space in the building. But, the lease is going to be ended by Nov. 1. DeMarinis said right now the former Salvation Army space is being renovated with grow rooms and retail. After Casey's moves, the next phase of the project will unfold.
"We don't need that space right now for construction and development of the retail space," DeMarinis said. "When they are gone we will demo everything in there, clean it up into more sterile space."
Khem is just one of three medical marijuana facilities in Pittsfield to receive a provisional license. Attorney Andrea Nuciforo, an investor in Khem, said the company is currently in the "architectural review" period in which the state keeps a close eye on the floor plans and development proposals.
"That process has been exhaustive and comprehensive," Nuciforo said.
On Wednesday, the company brought those floor plans to the Zoning Board of Appeals, submitting them to the Office of Community Development. The company hopes to start growing in six weeks and then open for retail shortly after.
"We've begun construction on the facility and we've made good progress," Nuciforo said.
Two other medical marijuana projects are also in the works. Temescal Wellness, which is an offshoot of the former Manna Wellness, plans to build a new facility on Callahan Drive. Heka Health is looking to open just down the street from Khem at the former Countrywide Rentals on Dalton Avenue.
Currently, there is not a medical marijuana facility within an hour drive of the city.
Those three will also have the first crack at getting a license to sell recreationally but it isn't known if any of them are intending to pursue that.
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