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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 Road Projects Underway

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The reconstruction of Maple Drive is expected to be substantially complete by the end of the week. 
 
"It's scheduled to receive the topcoat of blacktop on Friday, weather permitting, and that will leave just the aprons and then it will be complete. It's looking great up there and it's coming along really well," Highway Superintendent Robert Navin told the Select Board  on Tuesday.
 
The road project's been a few years in the making after it was bumped from the repairs list back in 2018 because of a delay in recording it after the town voted to accept it. Maple has been considered one of highest in need of repair and had scored a 39 out of a grade of 100 in a road report commissioned in 2017.
 
The project had to go out to bid a second time after receiving no interest in an initial offering. The scope was increased and the town received five bids. The project ended up being completed for roughly $120,000.
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