Bernardston approves cannabis sales tax, PILOT agreements at Town Meeting

  • Town officials and members of the public congregate at the Senior Center in advance of the Feb. 16 Special Town Meeting. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Town Moderator Geoffrey Wilson speaks at the Feb. 16 Special Town Meeting. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Highway Superintendent Brian Miner (left, standing) speaks at the Feb. 16 Special Town Meeting. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer
Published: 2/18/2022 3:04:18 PM
Modified: 2/18/2022 3:04:06 PM

BERNARDSTON — All six articles on Bernardston’s Feb. 16 special Town Meeting warrant were approved in short order Wednesday night, with the meeting lasting just 20 minutes.

There was little debate in the Bernardston Senior Center as Town Moderator Geoffrey Wilson went down the brief list of requests after opening the meeting at 7 p.m. Four articles were approved unanimously, while two received a singular “no” vote from the crowd.

Article one prompted the town to allow the negotiation of payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements going forward, which are payments to local governments to help offset any losses in property taxes due to non-taxable lands or properties. The article was approved with one objection. 

“We have two solar projects going on in town,” Selectboard Chair Robert Raymond explained at the meeting. “Both projects are in the works, one at the landfill and one at the Grover property behind the prior Four Leaf Clover. This has to go through the town and we’ve already assessed how much we want to charge them.”

Article two similarly related to PILOT agreements, proposing that the town enter a PILOT agreement for a “large scale solar project located at 0 South Street and 32 Fox Hill Road,” meaning that while the land will still be taxable, the solar panels will not be taxed as the town will receive PILOT money instead. The panels cover about 7½ acres of land. This article was approved, receiving one objection.

Article three asked that the town transfer funds from its stabilization account to purchase two used trucks and necessary upgrades for the Highway Department. The $249,000 expenditure was unanimously approved and would cover the trucks’ purchase, shipping, and necessary upgrades. Highway Superintendent Brian Miner took to the microphone to explain that approval would “save the town money and still get our necessary equipment.”

“We are in a situation now where we have a 2007 International truck in need of replacement,” he said.

Article four was addressed a clerical error in which funds in the amount of $25 needed to be transferred between the Selectboard donation account to the newsletter revolving account to complete funding for a newsletter stipend.

Article five was of similar nature, referring to the proposed transfer of funds from the recycling revolving fund to pay invoices from the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District from the 2021 fiscal year. A sum of $6,077 would pay fiscal year 2021 invoices from the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District, which were dated for June 30, 2021 and received following the fiscal year’s end. 

Article six, regarded as the most notable on the warrant, would give the town permission to collect a 3% local sales tax on cannabis or cannabis products sold by any retailers that might operate within the town. This comes in anticipation of cannabis retail company Heirloom Collective opening a retail facility in Bernardston, which currently only has a cultivation facility. As is typical with cannabis retailers in Massachusetts, a 17% sales tax would go to the state while 3% will go to the town.

“This is basically like the rooms tax we have on motels in town and the food tax,” Raymond explained. “All of us pay .75% and this money helps with revenue for the town of Bernardston.”

Articles three through six were unanimously approved.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or


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