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Medical Marijuana

Deerfield proposes medical pot overlay district

DEERFIELD — If townspeople approve, medical marijuana treatment centers could only be located south of Elm Street across from the Red Roof Inn and within the Deerfield Industrial Park.

The Planning Board has proposed creating an overlay district consisting of the planned industrial district and the lower portion of the current industrial district.

The planned industrial district is made up entirely by the industrial park off Route 116. The portion of the industrial district sited in the proposal is the former location of Deerfield Urethane, south of Elm Street across from Red Roof Inn and Yankee Candle Co.

Medical marijuana treatment centers would require an annual special permit approved by the Board of Selectmen, according to the zoning proposal. Treatment centers, which encompass dispensaries and cultivation centers, would not be part of the zoning use table, which tells the town what is allowed in each zone. They would not qualify as retail or medical or anything else on the use table.

In addition, the treatment centers could not be sited within a 500-foot radius of a school, day care center or any facility in which children congregate. This is the minimum allowed by the state Department of Public Health regulations.

The overlay district does not include the agricultural district. Planning Board Chairman John Waite said the board believes many treatment centers will have the retail and growing in one warehouse to enhance security.

At first, the board considered adding the agricultural zone to the overlay district, but no local farmers expressed interest in growing medical marijuana at the public hearing, Waite said.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the new proposal on Oct. 28 at 5:30 p.m. in the Frontier Regional School. Immediately after, the townspeople will be asked to approve the changes at a special town meeting at 7 p.m.

If there are substantial changes to the proposed bylaw, however, the town may have to pass over the article depending on the changes, interim Town Administrator Wendy Foxmyn said. She said the town lawyer would be present to advise.

The proposed overlay district does not constitute spot zoning, said Patricia Smith, a senior land use planner for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.

Foxmyn also said the proposal doesn’t qualify as spot zoning.

Spot zoning is illegal. The state Supreme Judicial Court found in a Hanover case that spot zoning occurs where a zoning change is designed solely for the economic benefit of one property owner, excludes nearby property owners of similar benefits and does not benefit the public welfare.

The proposal changed from the one originally advertised after an hour-long discussion on what would be the best area for a potential medical marijuana treatment center.

Originally, the Planning Board proposed to allow medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation centers in the planned industrial district and the entire industrial district by special permit.

The Planning Board has proposed strict rules on the treatment center’s placement because the town doesn’t know what to expect yet. Town planners said the rules can always be relaxed in later years.

Police Chief John Paciorek Jr. said his concerns involve rights of access at the facilities, ease of access, the proximity of the town to Interstate 91 in a robbery case and training for treatment center employees.

Deerfield is being courted by many people interested in growing marijuana in town, but who would be selling it in dispensaries in the eastern part of the state.

Building Inspector and Health Agent Richard Calisewski said the town has received three inquiries so far from people interested in either growing or selling in Deerfield or both.

Whately potato farmer James Pasiecnik also originally expressed interest in opening a dispensary in Deerfield and growing the plants in Whately. Pasiecnik has since backed off his Deerfield proposal and is fully pursuing a dispensary in Whately.

Deerfield is one of the few towns that didn’t have a temporary moratorium on treatment centers, opting to figure out its zoning regulations without one.

A total 158 nonprofit applicants of medical marijuana facilities are vying for 35 available state licenses. Five applicants have proposed treatment centers for Franklin County. The state requires at least one dispensary and no more than five in each of its 13 counties.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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