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Engineer Jim Scalise of SK Design presented the plans on behalf of Heka.

Marijuana Approved For Former KFC In Pittsfield

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A lot has changed in two years. 
 
Nearly two years ago to the date the Zoning Board of Appeals denied a permit for a medical marijuana facility at the former Kentucky Fried Chicken on East Street because it was detrimental to the neighborhood. On Wednesday, the ZBA approved an even bigger recreational marijuana facility on the same location. 
 
Heka Health is proposing to tear down the former KFC and renovate the Tailored Events properties for a recreational marijuana dispensary. The KFC will become a parking lot for the site. 
 
The ZBA unanimously approved the application, adding only conditions that it be closed by 9 p.m. and that vehicles be restricted from taking a left out of the property. 
 
"I think the application is complete and addresses all of the issues," said ZBA member Thomas Goggins.
 
The applicants from then and now don't necessarily mirror each other but the major factors leading to the rejection of the project two years ago remain. Neighbors fought both projects saying that the location is close to playgrounds, daycares parks, schools, and other family-oriented attractions. Chin Bo Jok Martial Arts Academy for children, Kids Zone Day Care Center, and parks and doctor's offices still remain.
 
That had worked in the prior application as the board determined medical marijuana there would be detrimental to the character of the neighborhood. But since then, recreational marijuana was approved by voters and attitudes toward potential businesses have changed. While there was only supposed to be a couple medical marijuana establishments, city officials have opened up the recreational business to up to 35. 
 
John Fitzgerald sat on the ZBA two years ago and now. In 2016, his vote was against the proposal but his concern was particularly for the residential neighbors that border it. 
 
For Fitzgerald, seeing that the KFC was being torn down and turned into a parking lot while the business would be further away, that was enough to appease him. Further, the plans also call for additional screening on that side of the lot.
 
While neighbors Michael O'Keefe and Anne Dina raised concerns about traffic levels, Fitzgerald said, "it will just be like a CVS" and put little stock into those concerns.
 
Engineer Jim Scalise, of SK Design, said East Street has 13,000 vehicle trips a day and there have only been four accidents reported in that section, saying it is a "low accident location." He added that the marijuana facility will generate a third of the traffic volume as the former restaurant did.
 
O'Keefe doesn't believe those numbers. He said there are accidents along East Street constantly. 
 
"Why do we have to keep shooting down these applications for marijuana facilities when we've done it before?" O'Keefe, who fought the battle before, said.
 
Nonetheless, the ZBA unanimously approved the special permit.

Tags: ZBA,   marijuana,   

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