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Adams Moving Forward With Tobacco Cap

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The Board of Health is continuing discussions on capping the number of tobacco sellers and is planning to hold a public hearing. 
ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Health plans to move forward with capping tabaco permits in town even after some push back from a selectman.
 
The board members plan to hold a public hearing in the coming months to square away how they want the town's new regulation to look, however, Selectman James Bush aired his grievances with the proposed policy that he thought went too far.
 
"Personally I don't think this cap makes sense," Bush, liaison to the board, said last Wednesday. "If I want to start a business, you are telling me I can't sell cigarettes because someone does across the street. Cigarettes aren't illegal in this state they are far from it ... we are shooting ourselves in the foot."
 
Last year, the Board of Health agreed it wanted to go forward with limiting the number of establishments that sell tobacco but had yet to figure out the specifics. The board reached out to the city of Pittsfield that had undergone the same process years ago.
 
Currently there are 10 tobacco sellers in Adams. One of these is adult only.
 
The Board of Health  members agreed with Bush that they did not want to totally squash the possibility of an incoming business so were working with a cap of 11 retail permits.
 
"If a new business comes in or a gas station that wants to sell more than fuel and they want to sell tobacco," member Peter Hoyt said. "Do we anticipate that? That is a concern of mine."
 
The choice was to tie the number to the town's population and through attrition, eventually get the number down to eight or nine. This would follow the one per 1,000 people metric Pittsfield adopted.
 
Buffer requirements have not yet been discussed, but the board members did talk about a 500-foot rule that would keep new establishments away from places where children congregate and other like businesses.
 
The board also considered separating adult use permits such as the existing vape shop and the incoming cigar lounge. Although they did not agree on that cap, member David Rhoades thought the number four seemed reasonable.
 
The board asked Bush what Adams looked like in the past and where potential sellers could locate.
 
Bush said there were a lot of convenience stores in Adams that sold tobacco that none of them could have existed with the 500-foot rule. 
 
"It seemed like every other building here. There were probably six down that corridor if you start on Zylonite," he said. "There were a lot of variety stores in this town."
 
Bush felt the cap would lock a lot of potential businesses out of the downtown corridor where it is desperately needed. He said, in general, the policy does not make Adams look business friendly. 
 
"Businesses are going to get a bad taste in their mouth about Adams and they are not going to want to come here," he said. 
 
The board said its main concern was stabilizing tobacco sales and limiting access specifically to minors.
 
Bush did not think this would make a difference.
 
"I don't believe that for one minute. These young kids who are smoking, who are buying these cigarettes for them? The parents," he said. "If they have to walk 500 feet or 1,000 feet to buy cigarettes it will not make a difference. It's up to the parents to tell their kids they shouldn't be smoking. It's not up to the town of Adams to step into someone's house."
 
He added that it is not up to the town to enforce this and these sellers should be checking identification.
 
"It is plain and simple that is their job, it is not our job to check IDs," he said. 
 
Rhoades argued that where there are more vendors there is more usage and member Laura Grandchamp agreed and said the closer they are to schools the more kids smoke.
 
"There are studies that show there is a clear association between proximity of cigarette selling to schools and the number of kids that smoke," she said.
 
The conversation stopped there and Rhoades said he would like to invite a representative from the Pittsfield Board of Health as well as James Wilusz of Tri-Town Health to the future public hearing. He said he would also like to invite vendors.
 
"The numbers are not hard core it is just what we have now," he said. "Let's get the experts in here."
 
In other business, Rhoades brought up concerns he had with the possible cigar lounge to open in the former Rascals on Summer Street.
 
"I am just looking for some clarity," he said.
 
Late last year, John and Tracy Sheerin, owners of Original Seed, met with the board requesting an extension of the permit process. A former code enforcement officer wrongly awarded the business their permit before they completed various state requirements causing some confusion in the process.
 
The board extended the permit process 90 days into March giving the Sheerins more time to wrap up the state permitting process.
 
Rhoades was not sure if Original Seed customers could bring their own cigars and felt the laws were a little vague.
 
Building Inspector Gerald Garner spoke up and said he thought the board was overstepping.
 
"That's neither here nor there, and what does that have to do with you?" he asked. "I think you have gone too far here. You can't micromanage him to death. Where does it say he can not allow people to bring their own cigars?" 
 
Rhoades said his point of concern was the membership model Sheerin alluded to in his draft business plan presentation. Only those who lease a humidor locker in the lounge could bring in cigars from the outside. Other patrons could only smoke on the premise what they purchased from Original Seed.
 
Rhoades said he did not think Original Seed could become a membership organization. He asked if the Sheerins can charge a locker fee, how would this affect their revenue of which at least 51 percent must be from cigar sales.
 
"People may be able to bring their own cigars but if so it undermines his business model and could he recoup that through renting lockers," he said.
 
Garner said this seems to be more of a state issue that the board should not be concerned with.
 
"What has he done that has warranted that kind of criticism because when you get down to it, liquor stores are selling liquor. Do you know if a certain liquor store is going to sell to a minor?" he asked. "No you don't, that is not your job. If it happens then it is. This man is starting a business. You have nothing to do with regulating his excise tax and his sales tax."
 
Hoyt agreed and noted if the state finds an issue in the business model they will inform the board and they won't issue the permit.
 
Rhoades said he was trying to look out for the Sheerins and wanted them to be privy to an aspect of the law he thought was a bit ambiguous. 

Tags: board of health,   smoking regulations,   tobacco regulations,   

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Woodlands Partnership Towns Gets $260K in State Funding

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The newly established Mohawk Trail Woodland Partnership's grant program has received $260,000 in funding from the state to support forest stewardship, nature-based tourism and climate education.
 
The funds were announced last week by Gov. Charlie Baker and will build on the shared stewardship agreement signed last November between the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, the 10 of the participating municipalities and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.
 
Each community will receive $20,000 toward projects and programming and the FRCOG is getting $60,000 for a regional tourism assessment.
 
"Improving the stewardship of our forests makes them more resilient to the impacts of climate change, strengthens local economies by encouraging nature-based tourism, and benefits rural communities," Baker said in the announcement. "These grants are a terrific example of the collaborative spirit we've worked to foster here in the commonwealth, and we are proud to partner with these communities to preserve our forests and natural resources for generations to come."
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