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Pittsfield ZBA Continues Two Marijuana Facility Hearings

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Zoning Board of Appeals deferred two special permit requests for two marijuana facilities to its Oct. 23 meeting, seeking clearer more complete information. 
 
Marijuana took the better part of the ZBA's two-hour meeting Sept. 18 and with residents both supporting and opposing proposed growing and retail facilities on Seymour Street and Pecks Road and questions amongst the board, the board agreed to hold off decisions until next month. 
 
"This is tough ... these are not easy things to resolve when you have the invasion of things into people's backyards that are new," Chairman Albert Ingegni, III said. "It is difficult but there are a lot of things to consider here so we are doing the best we can."
 
Northeast Cultivation LLC, which wants to convert a farm at 997 Peck's Road to an outdoor cultivation facility, took up the bulk of the meeting and attorney Bill Martin, representing Northeast, said they were willing to agree to some conditions that should mitigate possible odor from the plants.
 
"We are all in new territory when it comes to the marijuana business," he said. "My client wants to be a very good neighbor ... and not be disruptive to the neighborhood."
 
A representative from Northeast gave outlined some of the accommodations the company was willing to make, including improved lighting, relocating greenhouses, and ventilated tents that should eliminate possible odor.
 
Martin also had in hand 14 letters of support from abutters.
 
Many residents came out in support of farming. They said they would rather see something grown on the land than, say, a housing development.
 
Others said they have been growing marijuana nearby for years and it was never an issue.
 
There were also those opposed who said the smell is still a major concern. Others felt the farm would attract crime. There was a concern that property values would plummet and there would be noise pollution.
 
One resident just asked for some "teeth" in the conditions and thought if Northeast violated any of the conditions their harvest should be instantly eradicated. 
 
Board member John Fitzgerald came out against the project and motioned to deny. 
 
"There seems to be a lot of concern so I would like to make a motion that we deny," he said.
 
Fitzgerald did not receive a second.
 
The rest of the board just wanted more details and asked the applicant to codify the changes they pledged to make in the presentation. They also asked that the applicant answer some of the questions such as the decibel level of the fans before the next meeting.
 
"We are going to hammer this out and come back next month and I think we can put this in a format where we can still open it up to input from both sides," Ingegni said. "Then we can hopefully come to a conclusion."
 
In other business, the board agreed to delay a decision on a special permit request from True East Leaf that wants to establish a marijuana cultivation and retail operation at 161 Seymour St. with concerns with odor and parking.
 
The first concern was possible odor and board and Fitzgerald asked that True East Leaf develop a mitigation plan for odor.
 
"My concern is where this is located there are several businesses," he said. "If I were going to a restaurant and the odor was wafting about I don't think I would go to the restaurant."
 
As for parking, True East Leaf already received a parking waiver from the Community Development Board. Per the city's off-street parking requirements the business is required to have nine off-street parking spots for employees.
 
Attorney Anthony Doyle said the have agreements in place for parking off-site.
 
But the board still had concerns about congestion in the area and overflow parking affecting other businesses. 
 
"I have concerns about the location of this. It is a tight area and to me, it would very difficult to get people in and out," Fitzgerald said. "I don't want people out on the street arguing about parking."
 
Doyle said the location was formerly a bakery and it was not an issue in the past and part of the business model is to move people through quickly so parking congestion should not be an issue.
 
He said there are really not a lot of other parking options with parking in the area mostly locked up by BMC. The only option would be to bus people to the facility which would be too cumbersome. 
 
The board was concerned that customers would use abutting parking lots but Doyle said they have a good relationship with surrounding businesses and they do not foresee and issue. If an issue came up they would be willing to police the parking.  
 
"If it becomes an issue we will police it and keep people out of that parking lot," he said. "We have a great relationship with that neighborhood and we don't want to interfere with that."
 
Representatives from area restaurant Tahiti Take Out said parking was already an issue and they were concerned about True Leaf customers using their parking lot. They also had concerns about odor.   
 
The board asked the applicant to provide a parking plan and an odor mitigation plan at their October meeting.

Tags: marijuana,   parking,   

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Pittsfield Preparing Morningside Fire Station RFP

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city plans to reissue another request for proposals for the Morningside fire station with developers' interest ramping up.
 
The City Council on Tuesday heard from Paula Messena during public comment who said she and her partner Scott Graves were interested in developing the long vacant fire station.
 
"I stand before you today publicly announcing our interest in the Morningside fire station," she said. "Scott Graves and I have shown on numerous occasions interest in the building but have never officially been acknowledged by the city."
 
Graves purchased the YMCA boathouse on Pontoosuc Lake and renovated it as the Rusty Anchor. He recently ran in the preliminary election for mayor on a platform focused on the red tape he says makes it difficult for developers to save old buildings and start businesses. 
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