Pittsfield Board: Dalton Ave. Site 'Great Spot' for Medical Marijuana

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Attorney Syd Smithers asked for the Community Development Board's support when his client, Total Health and Wellness, seeks a special permit to open a medical marijuana facility.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The state is requiring much tighter security on a medical marijuana distributor than any other pharmacy.

But, Total Health and Wellness Inc. is prepared to meet those standards in a reuse of a Dalton Avenue building.

And on Tuesday, the Community Development Board was happy with the planned reuse of the building.

The Community Development Board is forwarding the application to the Zoning Board of Appeals with a positive recommendation.

"It's a great spot. It's away from schools. I see no problem," said member Louis Costi, adding that the site currently housing County-Wide Rentals could be redeveloped into a far more intrusive car dealership by right.

Attorney Syd Smithers, of the firm Cain Hibbard & Myers, outlined the operations of the redeveloped building. Smithers said about 4,800 square feet will be used for cultivation while 1,500 square feet will be for retail operations.

The company is working with Medbox Inc. for the creation of an automated distribution computer, which will read the patient's prescription and distribute just that amount. Then, it will automatically report that distribution to the state Department of Public Health.

The company is one of two applicants that have filed second phase applications for approval with the state.

"It is a safe and secure means of dispensing medical marijuana and according to our clients, a state of the art method of doing so," Smithers said.

However, getting to that point requires a registration card. The machine is behind a controlled sally port, or vestibule.

"You can't get into the building without a registration card and the registration card will have a finger print on it. You can enter a sally port after showing your registration card and explaining the reasons you are there," Smithers said.

The company's representatives said the building will need to be highly secured.

Meanwhile, the entire site will be monitored by infrared cameras and alarms. Any time the marijuana is handled by either patients or employees, it must be done while being filmed and that video stays on file for at least three months, he said.

"The provisions required for security by CMRs probably exceed that of a pharmacy dispensing OxyContin," he said.

The state also requires any medical marijuana facility to be 500 feet away from a school but the city's own ordinance doubles that. The 531 Dalton Ave. site meets that requirement.

Engineer Matthew Puntin said the facility would not have detrimental affects on sewer, water, storm water runoff or traffic.

"This is a low-traffic generator," he said. "We estimate at the most, we need 13 parking spaces and we have 14."

The company is estimating between 30 and 50 customers per day, which added to the employees, will only create a maximum of 120 trips a day, he said, a small number compared to the 18,500 trips made on Dalton Avenue every day. For those cars entering and leaving, there is plenty of sight distance, he said.

The site is already connected to city and water systems but usage shouldn't be significant, he said. The cultivation will require about 1,500 gallons a day, he said, and very limited sewage will be added to the system.

As for storm water drainage, there isn't much the company can do to the already developed site, he said. But, it will be adding grass and trees in its landscaping, which reduces the impervious surface by 1,200 square feet.

Puntin added that the parcel is located in the 100-year flood plain, so the company cannot add fill to the site and will need approval from the Conservation Commission.

With Community Development's approval, the plan will now move to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The state is only expected to issue approvals early in 2014. Manna Wellness is also seeking the Department of Public Health license and is planning an all-new facility. Manna Wellness has not sought city permits yet.

Tags: community development,   medical marijuana,   

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Innovation Center on Schedule For January Opening

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Innovation Center is still on schedule to open sometime in January.
The center's Executive Director Ben Sosne gave a brief update to the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority last week and said board should expect a grand opening in the first half of January.  
"I was just through the building and it looks fantastic," he said on Tuesday. "I am really excited to get this thing open and welcome everybody in."
He said in the next few months they will be moving in tenants and figuring out final specs.
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