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Williamstown Zoning Board of Appeals Chair Andrew Hoar and David Levine participate in Thursday's meeting.

Williamstown ZBA Continues Marijuana Farm Petition to March Meeting

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Tim Duncan addresses the ZBA about his request to establish an art studio and gallery at his Cold Spring Road (Route 7) residence.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday granted a special permit for a Cold Spring Road resident to operate an art studio and gallery at their residence.
The board did not, however, take up a more contentious issue: the application for a special permit to grow marijuana on a Blair Road property.
Only four members of the board could attend Thursday's monthly meeting. That gave the body a quorum, but it also meant that a successful petition would have needed a unanimous decision from the ZBA members present.
Before the meeting, Chairman Andrew Hoar explained that condition to both applicants and offered them the option to request a continuance. Donald Dubendorf, the attorney for marijuana producer Massflora LLC, sought such a delay to the board's March meeting.
Tim Duncan and Rebecca Johnston went ahead with the request for permission to establish a studio at 534 Cold Spring Road.
The longtime artists hope to conduct classes a few days a week at the space and have a small gallery to sell their works.
Duncan, who addressed the board, said he does not plan a "store," per se. More likely the works will be displayed in a self-serve setting where customers can leave their money in exchange for the artwork; he has no intention to hire staff, Duncan said, and he did not ask permission for external signage.
He did mention that in addition to a few weekly classes, there is a chance that he may teach a class in Williams College's winter study session each January, and the special permit approved by the board allows for that possibility.
No one addressed Thursday's hearing for or against Duncan and Johnston's request, and the board received no correspondence regarding the Cold Spring Road project.
The same could not be said for Massflora's application.
In a preview of what to expect at the board's March 21 meeting, the ZBA has received as of Thursday afternoon eight letters against the proposed pot plantation.
The majority of the letter-writers identified themselves as residents near the parcel in question.
One letter came from Philip McKnight, who raised the same issue to the ZBA that he made to his colleagues on the Conservation Commission, which last week gave its go-ahead to Massflora despite McKnight's concerns.
Stressing that he was writing as a concerned citizen and not in his capacity as a member of the commission, McKnight suggested that the ZBA follow the path he recommended to the Con Comm and delay action on the Massflora application until it receives guidance from town counsel about potential legal liability for facilitating a business flouting federal law.
Most of the letters objecting to the application concerned the effect on quality of life and property values in the Blair Road neighborhood if Massflora is allowed to build the 7,000 square foot processing center and establish the 5-acre outdoor plantation it proposes.
"The proposed project is not an agricultural use appropriate in a rural residential area," one letter reads. "Rather, it's a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility more appropriate in an industrial area.
"The adverse effects for the neighboring vicinity and for the Town far outweigh any potential benefits to the Town."
The ZBA tentatively scheduled a site visit to the Blair Road property for the morning of March 9. Hoar said the site visit, when it is scheduled, will be open to the public and will be warned in advance on the town's website.

Tags: ZBA,   marijuana,   

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Clark Art, Images Present Norwegian Film Series

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Throughout August, the Clark Art Institute and Images Cinema present four Norwegian films in conjunction with the exhibition "Nikolai Astrup: Visions of Norway." 
This virtual film series is free, and each film can be viewed online for a week. 
"Astrup: Catching the Flame" (August 4–10)
The series kicks off with "Catching the Flame" (Astrup: Flammen Over Jølster) (2019), directed by Pål Øie. The film tells the life story of Nikolai Astrup, one of Norway's greatest and most original painters. Growing up in a strict religious community, Astrup broke with his father, a Lutheran priest, at a young age and escaped to the continent to immerse himself in the world of art. Returning to his native Jølster, he frequently clashed with the small-minded locals, but he also found inspiration in the love of his wife Engel and the natural beauty of the valleys of western Norway. Danish actor Thure Lindhardt stars as an artist who stands today as one of Norway's greats. (Run time: 1 hour, 19 minutes) 
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