For the 2022 fiscal year, the town has earmarked $350,000 for distribution among qualifying organizations, individuals, town committees and town departments seeking support for community benefit projects.
On what promises to be the most controversial issue up for discussion, the board broke with the Planning Board, voting 4-1 against recommendation of the cannabis cultivation bylaw that the planners focused on for the past year.
But first Chair Stephanie Boyd reviewed the steps the board took to gather input and generate consensus around the marijuana issue, which generated angst, confusion and, ultimately, no action at the 2020 annual town meeting.
But the conversation brought to mind a date seven days earlier as the board and the public relived many of the same arguments that have dominated the body's discussion for months as it hashes out a new zoning bylaw to regulate the production of cannabis.
The board reviewed the most up-to-date proposal for a bylaw amendment it has been considering formally since September and, in reality, for much longer than that. The board is hoping not to repeat last year's failed attempt to implement restrictions on pot production but still allow a pathway for growers via special permit.
The Zoning Board of Appeals last Wednesday approved a special permit from KO Resources LLC to allow the construction of a two-story, 100,000 square foot marijuana cultivation facility at the former site of Ken's Bowl with conditions on the approval adopted from the recommendations of a third-party review.
The Planning Board, which drafted one of the proposals on table at the annual town meeting, has spent most of its fiscal 2021 deliberations focused on developing a bylaw amendment that will pass muster in May.
But on one question, the board heard somewhat mixed messages: Can the bylaw limit production in a zone to "outdoor growing" and still allow greenhouses or hoop houses to let farmers get their plants started in the late winter and early spring?
As part of the board's yearlong effort to develop a zoning bylaw amendment that might pass at this spring's annual town meeting, it has scheduled a virtual event titled "Marijuana Cultivation: Issues and Opportunities," for 7:30 p.m. on the Zoom virtual meeting platform.
The Planning Board last week began filling in some of the blanks in a new cannabis production bylaw it hopes to send to town meeting in the spring.
And it agreed to try to set up a panel discussion with outside experts for early December.
Berkshire Root's two-story, 100,000-square-foot cannabis cultivation facility got the OK from the Community Development Board but the next day the Zoning Board of Appeals voted to postpone its decision until November.
Since that time, the state's Cannabis Control Commission has defined ground rules for production in Massachusetts, and the town has seen one submission for a special permit under the 2017 bylaw to establish an indoor/outdoor grow facility on Blair Road.