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Cheshire May Make Additions to Marijuana Bylaws

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Planning Board will address outdoor marijuana cultivation with some possible new bylaws.
 
Toward the end of Tuesday's regular Selectmen's meeting, resident Gary Trudeau asked the board if it planned to take another look at the marijuana bylaws after a contentious town meeting earlier in the month. 
 
"It just seems like an issue that was important to a lot of people at the meeting," Trudeau said. "It didn't pass but it was a tie vote so it barely didn't pass." 
 
A citizens petition article that would have regulated outdoor growing facilities failed with a tied vote at the annual town meeting. This was in response to a proposed grow facility on Stafford Hill.
 
Even if the article passed, it was fatally flawed because said town officials because it did not go through the proper planning procedure and it was unlikely that the attorney general would approve it.
 
Either way, there was a consensus that outdoor grow facilities were a bit of a blind spot in the town's original bylaws.
 
Planning Board Chairwoman Donna DeFino, who attended the meeting, said the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is already on it.  
 
"They are working on some new bylaws and this is not an unusual problem to Cheshire," she said. "They are working on a bylaw that addresses cultivation and potentially other issues and quantifying it."
 
After a bylaw is drafted, it will go before the Planning Board for consideration.
 
In other business, the Selectmen met with the Cemetery Commission to discuss possibly contracting out grave openings instead of it being under the Highway Department's purview. 
 
"I guess we are looking at trying to better define our Highway Department," Chairman Robert Ciskowski said. "There is a need for graves to be opened but also a demand for work out on the streets."
 
The town contracted this service out in the past and with a Highway Department squad that is spread so thin, the Selectmen are considering returning to this.
 
The commission said they were willing to explore it but did have some concerns about contractor flexibility and costs associated with moving equipment.   
 
Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV in his report said someone has shown interest in leasing the kitchen in the former Cheshire Elementary School.
 
"This is very preliminary and we have to look into the code and have an inspection," he said. "I just wanted to put that out there and there is still interest in the building."
 
The town has been slowly leasing portions of the building. So far the Hoosac Valley Regional School District central office, an exercise group, and the Youth Center are in the building.
 
Eventually the town would like to move Town Hall to the building but this would trigger building upgrades.
 
The town did allocate some money to repair a portion of the heating system but a fire suppression system also would have to be installed, which St. John said would cost over $120,000.
 
"That is just for construction that does not include design," he said.  
 
St. John said he is looking into grant opportunities and already knows of two grants that the town could apply for.

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Cheshire Will Try to Accommodate Hiker Camping

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Town officials will apply for a special permit on behalf of Appalachian Trail hikers to accommodate camping on the Cheshire School grounds.
 
A proposal to place a camping site on the town-owned land came to a halt last week when it was found to be in violation of the town's zoning. 
 
After some research, Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV told the board of Selectmen on Tuesday that he may have found a way to establish a campsite for through-hikers on a portion of the grounds of the vacant school.
 
"I think last week was good to get all of that information out so we know what the issues are but just because there are issues does not mean that there is not a path we can move forward on," St. John said.
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