Bernardston cannabis growers propose expansion

  • The Heirloom Collective on Northfield Road (Route 10) in Bernardston is seeking to expand. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • The Heirloom Collective on Northfield Road (Route 10) in Bernardston is seeking to expand. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 7/21/2021 6:42:37 PM

BERNARDSTON — The Planning Board will hold a public hearing Tuesday regarding a special permit application for an addition to The Heirloom Collective’s existing cannabis cultivation facility, as well as construction of a building to house office space and a retail cannabis dispensary.

The public hearing will be held at Town Hall beginning at 6:45 p.m. Those in attendance will be required to wear masks. Copies of The Heirloom Collective’s special permit and site plan review materials can be found at bit.ly/3hRUNJR.

The Heirloom Collective, which began growing its first rounds of marijuana flower in December of 2018, seeks approval for a 40,500-square-foot addition on the south side of the existing cannabis cultivation facility on Northfield Road (Route 10). The application also includes a proposal for a second 4,500-square-foot retail dispensary building, which would also contain office space for cultivation facility managers. The company’s first — and currently only — dispensary at 457 Russell St. in Hadley has seen “week over week, and month over month” growth since opening in May 2020, according to CEO Jim Counihan.

“You can only create so much product in a 20,000-square-foot building,” Counihan said. “If we’re going to have a second retail facility, we need to expand our cultivation to allow us to provide plenty of inventory for both retail locations, as well as service existing wholesale partners that are growing and new customers coming into market.”

Counihan said many new companies looking to come online are seeking partnerships with cultivators to ensure a supply chain before they open retail locations. Counihan said The Heirloom Collective currently has roughly 25 retail partners, and many of these partners have multiple stores.

Counihan argues that approval of the cultivation expansion and retail space would benefit the town. He said The Heirloom Collective would need to negotiate a second host community agreement with the Selectboard. As part of the town’s existing agreement for marijuana cultivation, the company is required to provide an annual donation that benefits residents. Last August, amid the earlier months of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Heirloom Collective donated $2,000 to the Bernardston Parent-Teacher Organization. Counihan said The Heirloom Collective also donates to the town beyond the obligation of the host agreement.

Secondarily, approval of the expansion and retail space would also see the company’s real estate tax liability increase, providing more income to the town. Lastly, Counihan said “it would provide jobs.” The business would ideally hire new employees from Bernardston and neighboring towns, he said, noting that new employees who aren’t Bernardston residents would likely spend money in town on items like food and gas.

Speaking Wednesday, Planning Board Chair Christina Slocum-Wysk said she had yet to hear from any residents who opposed the proposal, and noted the expansion could see “more money flowing into town.”

“I think it would be a great project,” Slocum-Wysk said. “I’d look forward to having more employment opportunities here in town, hopefully, and the extra revenue from sales at the dispensary.”

She said the addition would require an amendment of The Heirloom Collective’s existing special permit. While the addition to the existing building would still be metal to aid with sanitation and prevention of insect infestations in the grow facility, Slocum-Wysk said the retail space would have a hip roof. She also said the Planning Board has made changes to zoning guidelines related to design standards and landscaping since approving The Heirloom Collective’s existing facility, and these could be made as conditions for the new special permit.

During the first night of a two-night Annual Town Meeting in May, voters approved changes to zoning bylaws proposed by the Planning Board. Among the approved changes were updates to the marijuana bylaws to incorporate state guidelines and definitions pertaining to permitted uses for marijuana cultivation and retail facilities. Based on these newly approved bylaws, marijuana micro-businesses with up to 5,000-square-feet of enclosed floor area, marijuana cultivation facilities with up to 50,000-square-feet of floor space and other marijuana manufacturing facilities such as marijuana product manufacturers, research facilities and marijuana independent testing laboratories, are all permitted in business and industrial zones with a site plan review and special permit from the Planning Board.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.




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