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Bernardston Planning Board hears plans for marijuana grow facility

  • Site work has begun at 87 Northfield Road (Route 10), where Happy Valley Compassion Center has proposed building a medical marijuana grow facility. Dec. 1, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—PAUL FRANZ

  • AP Photo/Marina Riker AP Photo/Marina Riker



Recorder Staff
Saturday, December 02, 2017

BERNARDSTON — Representatives of Happy Valley Compassion Center fielded numerous questions from residents about their proposed medical marijuana grow facility during a Planning Board public hearing Thursday.

The nonprofit medical marijuana organization came before the board seeking a special permit to build on a 7.66-acre lot located at 87 Northfield Road, which Happy Valley Compassion Center leases from Sandri Companies through Crumpin-Fox.

However, because the Planning Board hadn’t received comment from all town boards and departments regarding granting the permit, the board did not vote Thursday. The hearing was continued to Thursday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. at Town Hall.

Jim Counihan, chief executive officer of Happy Valley Compassion Center, and Patrick Cloney, chief financial officer, were aided by Wilcox & Barton Senior Engineer David Frothingham III in sharing plans for the site, which would house a 20,000-square-foot steel building.

Water worries

The primary concern of both the board and residents, though, was how the facility would impact town water. Residents wondered how the town’s aging system of water mains, which has seen multiple breaks on Route 10, would hold up.

Cloney estimated that after the first week in business, when the facility would need 7,060 gallons of water per day, it would need 3,600 gallons per day. By comparison, Bernardston Fire and Water District Commissioner Jack Patch said the town’s system currently produces 325,000 gallons daily.

“It’s not gonna make that much of a difference,” Selectman Robert Raymond said. “I think there’s plenty of water.”

Planning Board member Rawn Fulton proposed Happy Valley Compassion Center consider installing a well, particularly in the event of any future expansion. Frothingham demonstrated on a site map how the facility could eventually expand to be three times its original size, while still having room at the rear of the lot for storm water drainage.

Noise and security

Residents also asked about truck traffic, with Cloney anticipating an 18-wheeler would deliver soil, pots, nutrients and other materials, perhaps on a weekly basis, using a four-foot loading dock at the back of the building. Vans and SUVs would take the processed marijuana out of town to dispensaries, all during business hours.

Employees — an estimated 20 to start, and 30 after a full buildout — would park in the front of the building. Cloney said that though the Department of Public Health requires the area be lit enough for discernible camera footage, he intends to use high tech, low-light cameras so lighting wouldn’t be intrusive at night. All access points to the building would be alarmed and under video surveillance, but there would be no perimeter fence.

“These buildings are as secure as a bank, if not more,” Counihan said.

Cloney also doesn’t believe sound would disturb neighbors, with the only noise coming from the heating and cooling system.

Despite the organization being a nonprofit, and thus tax exempt, Cloney said they “want to be good neighbors.” In accordance with the host agreement negotiated with the Selectboard, he said Happy Valley Compassion Center will pay taxes at the town’s single rate.

The hearing will continue next week, following Happy Valley Compassion Center’s 7 p.m. hearing with the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 257