The former garage at 1017 Simonds Road. Sparkboro Wellness plans to preserve the building envelope but eliminate the second floor, creating vaulted ceilings.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday issued the town's third special permit to operate a marijuana retail shop.
Sparkboro Wellness, which lists a Pittsfield business address and Steve Pennisi as president, obtained the necessary town permitting to operate a store in a former garage at 1017 Simonds Road (Route 7).
The town already has one cannabis shop in operation, Silver Therapeutics on Main Street (Route 2). A second applicant, operating under the business name Elev8, holds a special permit to open a second Main Street shop but still needs to come back to the ZBA for a site plan review.
Sparkboro still has to complete the approval process with the Cannabis Control Commission in Boston, but the local permitting was completed in a two-hour hearing and a unanimous vote by the board on Thursday night.
Sparkboro was represented in Thursday's hearing by Williamstown attorney Don Dubendorf and engineer Charlie LaBatt of Guntlow and Associates.
The testimony and the board's questions focused less on the nature of the business and more on the potential impact of developing the site and ensuring that development met town codes where possible and provided mitigation when not.
In other words, it was discussed as any other retail business might be.
One abutter did bring concerns before the board, but she said her comments stemmed from the potential impact of a retail operation next door to her home she rents as a residence.
"I'm not against cannabis," said Maura Taylor, who owns the home at 1025 Simonds Road. "But the activity … I could end up losing potential real estate income from this business being there. Prior to my purchasing this home, there was a family that lived [at 1017 Simonds Road]."
ZBA member Rob Matthews pointed out that while there may be impacts from revitalizing the commercial property next to Taylor's, both are in the town's Planned Business zoning district.
"That might be true, but [a business] is something allowed by right in that zone," Matthews said. "That could become a garage tomorrow."
Town Planner Andrew Groff told the ZBA that the area in question has been zoned planned business for decades.
The board was able to address some of Taylor's concerns by pointing to a site plan by the applicant submitted that shows Sparkboro's lighting plan abides by the town code by not allowing measurable light crossing the northern boundary of the 1017 Simonds Road property.
And although the applicant already had expressed a preference to use warmer, 3,000 Kelvin lighting that produces less glare, the ZBA specified the 3,000 Kelvin fixtures as a condition of Sparkboro's permit.
The board also was able to address Taylor's concern that vehicles entering the north entrance to Sparkboro's property might cut through an easement that 1017 Simonds Road shares with its neighboring parcel. The board included in its order that Sparkboro will use curbing or some other modification to ensure that does not happen.
The only other concern raised to the ZBA was a written communication from the counsel of Steinerfilm, Inc., which expressed a worry that cars pulling in and out of the Sparkboro lot would negatively impact employees entering and leaving the manufacturing facility by its access road, located at the south end of 1017 Simonds Road.
Nobody from Steinerfilm attended Thursday's virtual hearing to address the ZBA on the matter.
Dubendorf said there was ample evidence to show that Sparkboro would not exacerbate traffic problems on a stretch of a road where southbound traffic is transitioning from 45 mph to 35 mph.
He pointed to a recent Simonds Road traffic study taken south of the intersection with Bridges Road, the "Cozy Corner" intersection south of the 1017 Simonds Road, that showed 5,500 vehicle trips per day.
Dubendorf noted that since so many of the vehicles that travel that stretch of Simonds Road/Route 7 actually turn on and off the U.S. highway at Bridges, it is reasonable to infer that the number of existing vehicle trips past 1017 Simonds Road is even higher.
The applicant, meanwhile, estimates 224 car trips per day to the planned Starkboro location.
"Even if you double that number, you're below the 10 percent trigger under our bylaw of traffic addition," Dubendorf said.
In other business on Thursday night, the ZBA approved an enclosed mud room and carriage house-like storage building for a residence on Latham Street, which is in the Village Business District.
The homeowner was before the board because the single-family home represented a pre-existing non-conforming use in the zone.
"We normally deal with extensions of nonconforming uses by businesses in residential districts," Groff told the board. "This is the opposite."
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to email@example.com.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
Mount Greylock School Committee Gets Report on Start of School Year
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School District on Tuesday evening plans a community forum on the start of the school year.
The School Committee last Thursday heard that things are going as well as can be expected as the PreK-12 district re-invents the way it teaches students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are really appreciative of the fact that we've had a couple of weeks of remote learning actually, despite some challenges," said Joelle Brookner, who this summer transitioned from being principal at Williamstown Elementary School to being director of curriculum and instruction for the district.
"Bringing in small groups of people that we have in each of the student support centers in the schools has its own set of challenges, and it's allowed us to work out some kinks. It's allowing us to anticipate some of what the problems are probably going to be when we have more students in the building, such as distancing."
Last week, the president of Williams College announced to the school community that the college will provide office space to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community’s Tribal Historic Preservation Extension Office.
click for more
Appearing with Baker at his regular press availability, Riley twice declined to say what enforcement actions the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will take against more than a dozen districts who last week received a letter challenging their preference for remote learning to start... click for more
In all, there are four School Committee seats up for grabs in November. One, the lone seat for a Lanesborough resident up for election this cycle, has a single candidate, Michelle Johnson, running unopposed for a four-year term.
click for more
The Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Equity Committee on Monday discussed a statement of principles to guide the group's work as it seeks to work for justice in the college town of 7,700. click for more