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Project engineer Frank DeMarinis goes into more detail on the construction of the proposed steel and glass grow facility on Dalton Avenue.

Pittsfield Planners OK Three-Story Marijuana Cultivation Facility

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The Community Development Board reviews conditions for a marijuana facility and a cell tower on Tuesday.  
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Roots was given the OK to go forward with the construction of a three-story grow facility but only after making some final design concessions. 
Attorney Andrea Nuciforo Jr., representing KO Resources, came before the Community Development Board on Tuesday seeking permission to build the cultivation structure near the existing grow, production and retail operation at 501 Dalton Ave. 
"What we are proposing now is a new structure ... the new structure would have only the cultivation functionality in it," he said. "In effect, these are two floors of an indoor garden with mechanicals ... on the ground floor."
Project engineer Frank DeMarinis went into more detail over the actual structure that will be constructed from insulated steel panels and vertical glass. He said currently a steel frame sits on the site.
"We wanted to make the building look as attractive as possible by adding some vertical glass it is a little bit tricky because we can't add light into the flower rooms," he said. "I think we made the building more attractive, I think it came out pretty nice."
He said landscaping and decorative columns are being used to break the square building up and more windows added where possible. The building was also lowered nearly 7 feet at the prior request of the board.
There was no direct opposition to the site plan but City Councilor Nicholas Caccamo felt the proposed 70 parking spots were excessive. He said 55 are needed per city regulations.
"Maybe 50 is the right number but 70 seems really excessive and purely observationally, I don't think they demonstrated the need for that capacity," he said. "It seems like a shortcut to an opportunity to develop this parcel ... I think green space and landscaping would help this project."
The board agreed and felt instead of parking more green space was needed to "soften" the building.
DeMarinis said they plan to bring on 15 new employees with this expansion and currently at peak hours there are 60-plus employees on site. He added that Berkshire Roots needs this capacity especially in an industry that is in such flux. 
He was willing to accept a condition that would force the conversion of some parking spots back to green space if there were no capacity issues. The other option would be to be able to come back to the board and seek permission to turn greenspace into parking space.
"That could be a really nice balance for a special condition," he said. "We don't want to build it if we don't have to."
But the commission felt the building was still too big and too imposing. 
"I don't think that it is there yet," board member Matthew Herzberg said. "I do think you have made improvements but I don't think that it is there yet."
Herzberg had questions about specific materials and other possible aesthetic options but City Planner CJ Hoss suggested allowing the group to move forward and hashing out some of these details in the near future before building permits are awarded.
DeMarinis said they would be happy to consider tweaking plans to satisfy the board but agreed with Hoss — they wanted to get moving sooner rather than later. 
"Timing is of the issue this is a very dynamic industry," he said.
He said approval is important for the state licensing process and added that the impetus for the expansion is to supply their to be East Boston establishment with product.
The board did approve the site plan with a few conditions. Most notably Berkshire Roots must seek approval from the board before it is awarded a building permit. This will allow the board to square away some of the aesthetic issues it may have with the current design whilst allowing Berkshire Roots to move forward in the state application process. 
The other notable condition would allow Berkshire Roots to petition the board to turn landscaped space into four more parking spots.  
On Wednesday, Nuciforo and DeMarinis were before the Zoning Board of Appeals and received their special permit with matching conditions. 
In other business, the Community Development Board signed off on a site plan review from AT&T, which wants to install a wireless communication tower on Keeler Street. However, the board did recommend some changes to the project.
Attorney Edward Pare, representing AT&T, said the plan had been to keep the proposed 150-foot tower out of the way in the light industrial zoning district.
"We tucked the tower the best we could to the rear of the parcel where there is some vegetation that will provide a buffer," he said. 
He said the tower components will be surrounded by a chain-link fence.
Pare added that the tower meets all city regulations but exceeds the allowable tower height on the city books. The new city regulation only allows unconcealed towers up to 115 feet. He said they will need a waiver from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
This caused the board some pause and they felt AT&T should conform to city regulations. 
"That is a concern of ours and the impact it will have on the area," board member Elizabeth Herland said. "It will be seen from many places."
Pare said the tower could be lowered but this will affect service. He said if it is lowered around 10 percent of the area residents will not receive coverage. 
The board looked at a series of photos from different vantage points throughout the city displaying where the tower will be visible. 
The board opened the floor up to the public, several of whom took issue with the tower's height. There were other concerns and many felt the photos were misleading and did not account for months with less vegetation. 
Historical Commission member John Dickson specifically noted that the tower will compromise a historic mill site. He said the mill would become less attractive to developers.
The site is on a historic mill," he said. "Putting an antenna next to the mill will discourage redevelopment and create an eyesore." 
Pare responded that the project is still in early phases and that the Massachusetts Historical Commission will have to give the project its blessing.
Other attendees felt there were better locations and wanted to know what other sites were considered. 
The board was also concerned about possible sound from tower mechanicals including an HVAC system and a generator that would kick on in case of a power outage. 
Pare said AT&T would be happy to use a stockade fence instead of a chain-link fence and would follow the city's ordinance. 
"We want to be good neighbors, we are not here to irritate people," he said.
The board approved the site plan with the addition of the stockade fence but did not recommend the proposed height to the zoning board.
AT&T representatives attended the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting Wednesday asking for a continuance. They wanted time to respond to comments from Tuesday's meeting as well as gather input from the many attendees at both meetings.  AT&T will come back before the ZBA in December. 
The board also accepted without prejudice Guild Solar's request to withdraw an application to install a 4-megawatt solar facility on Gamwell Avenue.
"Theoretically they could apply again in the future," Hoss said.

Tags: cell tower,   marijuana,   Planning Board,   

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Sheriff's Office Delivers Thanksgiving Turkeys to Christian Center

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Sheriff Thomas Bowler with Food Service Director Richard Millis. The Christian Center brings turkeys donated to the center to the House of Corrections, where they are cooked and carved for the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals the center provides. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Sheriff Thomas Bowler and his staff delivered cooked Thanksgiving turkey to the Christian Center on Wednesday. 
The Christian Center is anticipating the distribution of at least 350 meals to people in need on Thanksgiving.
This has been a long-standing tradition between the sheriff's office and the Christian Center. For the last decade, staff and inmates at the Berkshire County House of Corrections have prepared Thanksgiving meals for hundreds of people at the center under the guidance of Food Service Director Richard Millis.
"I have been here for 10 years, and chef Millis has been cooking for 11 years, so the previous administration was doing this as well," Bowler said.
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