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North Adams Draft Ordinance Allows More Retail Cannabis

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The mayor is asking the City Council to take up a revamp of the cannabis ordinance that will allow more establishments to licensed. 
 
Mayor Jennifer Macksey provided the draft language on Tuesday night and said she's asked City Solicitor Nicole Constanza of KP Law to work with the General Government Committee. 
 
"As an administration, we were focused on the new legislation that I believe came out in November and we've been kind of holding off as we've been hoping to get more information from the Cannabis Control Commission, which is very slow coming out," said the mayor. 
 
"But we wanted to get the process started in regards to addressing courier and delivery businesses for cannabis, the removal of outdoor grow facilities better define the number of retail cannabis businesses as well as attempt to update the language per the the new regulations."
 
The draft language keeps all the buffer zones intact and further clarified; adds courier and delivery operator and their definitions; bans onsite consumption and outside grow facilities; and doubles the number of retail licenses from two to four, also removing the number's dependence on liquor and package stores. 
 
"Really this is an opportunity that I need my partners of the legislative branch to really dig in, do research and provide us a really good ordinance," Macksey said. "The first ordinance that was passed was a good document and now that we're ready to take another look at it with the new regulations, this is where I ask my partner's in government for help."
 
Healther Anello and Dan Berger, both of whom want to open a cannabis operation in the city, spoke during hearing of visitors. 
 
Anello, who has a special permit to use a section of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, commended the city for taking up the new regulations and said she's ready to roll out. Berger, who has a host community agreement with the city, did not think the new language was "substantially compliant" with the new state regulations. 
 
Councilor Ashley Shade, chair of General Government, motioned to refer to her committee with a return date of July because of the upcoming Finance Committee meetings. There was discussion of possibly having General Government and Public Safety meet at the same time but Councilor Keith Bona raised the concerns of having a quorum of the council so it was determined they should meet separately. 
 
"I think this is very doable and I want to invite the public and people who are involved in this industry to be at those meetings, to have a voice to have a say, to be able to ask questions to be able to provide input," said Shade. "If this is something that affects you, please come to those meetings and have your input as well."
 
Kristy Edmunds, director of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, spoke to the council about the museum's upcoming 25th anniversary this Memorial Day. 
 
"A thing that I often hope that everybody in North Adams understands, is in the broader art world, this is one of the largest and most significant places for the liberty of artistic expression in North America," she said. "That lives here."
 
She said the museum sees itself as a steward in caring for the historic mill buildings and is committed to the goals of Vision 2030, the city's master plan. 
 
"Mass MoCA has a mission that is connected to artistic expression, civic engagement and the upholding of cultural diversity. It also has a direct mission to create economic impact for jobs," Edmunds said, pointing out that it took 150 years to build up a manufacturing and to consider what will be possible in the museum's next 25. 
 
A community day will be held on Saturday, May 25, when the museum will have free admission along with actitivies and performances and food vendors. 
 
"We're also hosting a convening of young impactful philanthropists that are looking at the same things that you were just talking about — housing," she said. "How do you match private investment with government support in order to generate new dynamics that might have durable good for the humanity."
 
The council also heard about housing issues from the grassroots group North Adams Community Housing Organization on potential opportunities for advancing housing in the city through the governor's $4.2 billion Affordable Homes Act. 
 
In other business, the council confirmed the appointment of Kimberly Ann Perry to the Board of Registrars for a term to expire on May 14, 2027. 
 
A presentation on the mission and goals of the Youth Commission was referred to the mayor's office on a motion by Councilor Deanna Morrow, who had asked for time for the commission to speak. 
 
Bona asked that if comes back to council it be referred to General Government if there are any proposed changes, noting the restrictions had been loosened up to accommodate younger members and reach quorum.
 
"A lot of this was created by the City Council, I remember, under Councilor [Kate] Merrigan, Councilor [Michael] Boland. A few years later, under [Mayor] Bernard, it had been an issue trying to keep the board filled."
 
Shade said it was an underutilized commission and thanked Morrow for bringing it up. 
 
"I see some faces in the crowd here who I think would make great representatives if they want to get involved, because we do need more youth voices involved in the community," she said. 
 
• The meeting was briefly recessed during hearing of visitors when one audience member caused a disruption. The individual left and the meeting continued without incidence. 

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North Adams Council OKs $49M Budget for Fiscal 2025

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday approved a $48,891,455 fiscal 2025 budget, up $1,481,385 or 3.12 percent over this year. 
 
The budget includes a school budget of $20,357,096, up $302,744 or 1.51 percent over this year. 
 
The major drivers are the general increases in the cost of supplies, utilities and insurance; a 2 percent cost of living raise for nonunion employees; upgrades in software and equipment; reclassifications of several positions and additional clerical staff. 
 
Mayor Jennifer Macksey provided the city budget, school budget, compensation and classification plan and capital improvement plan in a bound document with summaries and graphs explaining expenditures. 
 
Finance Committee members recommended the total to the full City Council, calling it "fiscally responsible."
 
Councilor Keith Bona, Finance chair, said committee members did raise objections or concerns during deliberations, particularly Councilor Andrew Fitch over the lack of a city planner and Councilor Ashley Shade over the need for more building maintenance. Shade voted against the public safety budget Tuesday over that issue.
 
"The majority did support each department recommending it to the council and again, there were some some minor changes between the draft budget and what's in front of us," he said. 
 
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