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Pittsfield is seeking to change its cannabis ordinances to bring them in line with new regulations from the Cannabis Control Commission including that host community agreements must be 'reasonable' and applicable to other businesses.

Pittsfield Looks to Amending Cannabis Regulations

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — After the state Cannabis Control Commission made changes to permitting, the city has proposed a new ordinance to address equity requirements and allow the mayor to set policy regarding host community agreements.

The Community Development Board on Tuesday voted to become the petitioner for the document, moving it forward to the City Council.

"What we're trying to do here is take this language regarding a cap out of the zoning. The state and the Cannabis Commission have recently adopted new legislation and regulations regarding a number of items and one of those items includes host community agreements, it also includes equity plans to be produced by the municipality," Community Development & Housing Program Manager Nate Joyner explained.

"So as part of our response to the new regulations will be adopting a new ordinance that we will be putting forward to the City Council in the near future that will kind of formalize the city's authority regarding host community agreements and meeting the statutory requirements for equity plans."

This eliminates the 35 retail cannabis store cap and gives the mayor the authority to determine the number of establishments allowed.  

"To kind of tidy things up we're going to take this particular language out of the zoning ordinance so that it's not so set in stone and it doesn't conflict with whatever policies come out in the future," Joyner added.

The existing zoning requirements were established in 2017 and, last year, the CCC approved changes to the state's adult and medical use regulations including policies that implement the agency's oversight of host community agreements, new equity requirements, and suitability reform.

Starting no later than March, HCAs must be "reasonable," meaning that conditions can be required under local regulations, necessary for public health, and imposed on non-cannabis businesses. The new regulations also address impact fees, stipulating that the host community cannot collect them if the license is held for more than nine years.

"The way the process works now is one of these entities in order to get a license from the state to operate needs to have a host community agreement in place and the way that's set up is that's kind of the sole discretion of the mayor's office. They get to set the policy on who gets a host community agreement and basically, they're empowered to set policy," said Joyner.

"So what we're just trying to do with this new ordinance we'd be putting forward is again, formalizing that to identify the mayor has the authority to negotiate the number of host community agreements that they would like to enter."

He clarified that this zoning language is specific to retail uses.  

The city currently has around six dispensaries, dramatically below the cap. Last year, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved a special permit for a dispensary in the Allendale Shopping Center at 5 Cheshire Road, which a former councilor unsuccessfully tried to appeal.

Twenty-five percent of cannabis revenue goes into Pittsfield's public works stabilization account that was created in 2019, 25 percent goes to the stabilization fund, and 50 percent goes to the general fund.  Halfway through fiscal year 2024, the city collected about $256,000 of the $700,000 general fund estimate.

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Pittsfield ConCom OKs Zebra Mussel Treatment

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Conservation Commission has OKed a zebra mussel pesticide treatment in Onota Lake if the invasive species are confirmed.

On Thursday, the panel approved a notice of intent application for the use of EarthTec QZ within a specified treatment area of the lake.  

"We're not entirely 100 percent sure that there is an infestation of zebra mussels at Onota Lake. Last September, a water sample was taken and the DNA of zebra mussel was detected in that water sample. This was a water sample taken near the boat ramp at Burbank Park. Subsequent water samples were taken later in the fall and very early this spring, there were still non-detects in those water samples for DNA showing the presence of zebra mussels," Park, Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.

"We continue to, most recently as this Tuesday, we are sampling for zebra mussel EDNA and we should know the results of those samples certainly by early next week."

McGrath addressed the commission with a sense of urgency, as the lake is currently around 52 degrees Fahrenheit and the zebra mussels begin to activate around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  He described it as "an opportunity to take what could be a potential massively serious ecological issue at Onota Lake and nip it in the bud."

"What we're proposing here is a collaborative approach where there are many stakeholders involved," he said. "This is not Jim McGrath proposing the use of EarthTec QZ at the lake. This is something we have been very deliberative about."

The application was continued from the previous meeting so that it could be filed as a state Ecological Restoration Limited Project.

"Really what it means is that it's eligible, which I think this project meets the eligibility requirements, it affords the right to not have to comply with general performance standards for the resource area that's being impacted," Conservation Agent Robert Van Der Kar said.

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