Bernardston cannabis grow facility receives OK to expand, start dispensary

  • The Bernardston Planning Board approved a special permit for The Heirloom Collective to build a 40,455-square-foot addition onto its cannabis grow facility on Northfield Road (Route 10), pictured, and construct a 4,500-square-foot office and retail dispensary. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • The Bernardston Planning Board approved a special permit for The Heirloom Collective to build a 40,455-square-foot addition onto its cannabis grow facility on Northfield Road (Route 10), pictured, and construct a 4,500-square-foot office and retail dispensary. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 8/25/2021 5:28:38 PM

BERNARDSTON — The Planning Board approved a special permit Tuesday night allowing The Heirloom Collective to build a 40,455-square-foot addition onto its cannabis grow facility on Northfield Road (Route 10) and construct a 4,500-square-foot office and retail dispensary.

After an extensive site plan review and a review of the special permit criteria, the board unanimously approved the permit, with certain waivers, pending receipt of a letter of approval from the Fire and Water District. The project also still requires a presentation to the Selectboard for a second host community agreement.

Tuesday evening’s public hearing was a continuation of the July 27 hearing, during which representatives relayed their plans to the Planning Board and 15 members of the audience. The main concern of residents in July was traffic, in particular with respect to the entry onto Northfield Road.

To address those questions and concerns on Tuesday, Jeff Pechulis, owner of Westfield-based JSP Land Development Services shared with the board the results of a traffic impact study, estimating the proposed trip generation for both the growth facility and the dispensary.

“We did those estimates based on nationally provided trip generation standards … and we coupled it with the existing conditions for the grow facility — the hourly traffic going in and out — as well as our existing conditions on the roadway, Northfield Road,” said Pechulis, the traffic engineer for the project.

He noted that in addition to studying morning and evening peak hours, JSP Land Development Services factored in peak hours for The Heirloom Collective, which would occur at noon for the dispensary, as well as around the daily shift changes.

“We were fortunate to have a permanent count station … less than a few miles down the street, where they are doing continuous traffic counts,” Pechulis said.

Pechulis said he sent the information to state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) District 2 Traffic Engineer Bao Lang, and Lang’s only further requests were for crash data inventory for the area and a traffic flow diagram.

According to Pechulis, there were two reported accidents on the Interstate 91 ramps (unspecified which ramp) in 2018, one accident in 2019 and one in 2020.

In addition to those accidents, on the southbound off ramp specifically, there was one accident recorded for each of the last three years, he said. On the northbound off ramps, there was one in 2018 and one in 2020. To date in 2021, there haven’t been any accidents on either ramp.

Most at the interchange were rear-end accidents, Pechulis said.

He said there were zero accidents directly in front of the project site over the 3½ year period that was studied.

“One fortunate thing we do understand is this land use is new, and we are in the period of growing the number of these services throughout the state, or throughout the country, so the trip generation rate that’s provided is based on a small number of available facilities, so trip generation should be considered to be high,” Pechulis noted.

Reviewing the traffic study, Planning Board member Joel Cole told members there are approximately 9,500 vehicles per day on Northfield Road, of which roughly 560 vehicles are on it during morning and evening peak hours.

Planning Board members asked Pechulis if the town’s concerns about a passing zone were shared with Lang from MassDOT.

“Based on the number of accidents identified here … this doesn’t approach a high hazard accident rate,” Pechulis relayed.

Outside the issue of traffic, Project Manager Richard Marcks sought a waiver for vegetation requirements in the bylaws, noting that, per Cannabis Control Commission standards, it must be limited for security purposes.

Additionally the sign, which he described as a double-sided, 32-square-foot sign on a granite post, also received a waiver, following a discussion on whether a double-sided sign constituted one sign, as is allowed per the town’s bylaws.

After a detailed review of the site plan, Planning Board Chair Christina Slocum-Wysk went through each of the six criteria for a special permit: social, economic or community needs; traffic and safety flow; adequacy of utilities and public services; neighborhood character; impacts on the natural environment; and potential fiscal impact.

Few comments were made on each element, as they were discussed in depth during the site plan review. Slocum-Wysk did note, however, that the site would be an “improvement” to the character of the neighborhood, and that she felt any potential environmental concerns had been “mitigated … really well.”

Planning Board member Rawn Fulton commended Marcks and other Heirloom Collective representatives in attendance for their preparation.

“I think you’ve done an amazing job here, really thorough,” he said.

The Heirloom Collective began growing its first rounds of marijuana flower in December 2018. CEO Jim Counihan said the company’s first — and currently only — dispensary, at 457 Russell St. in Hadley, sees an average of 150 customers a day. It opened in May 2020.

Copies of The Heirloom Collective’s special permit and site plan review materials can be found at bit.ly/3hRUNJR.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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