Erving Planning Board proposes allowing marijuana microbusinesses, retail in more zoning districts

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Staff Writer
Published: 7/26/2021 2:56:52 PM

ERVING — The Planning Board has proposed changing the town’s zoning bylaws to be more lenient regarding approval of marijuana-related businesses in certain zoning districts.

While marijuana microbusinesses and retail locations have not been allowed in the French King Commercial District and the Village Residential District, they would now be allowed by special permit following a change to the table of uses that the Planning Board approved on July 15. However, the proposed changes must first be approved by the Selectboard, Town Meeting voters and then the Attorney General’s Office.

The Planning Board’s initial concerns over allowing marijuana businesses included those regarding odor and the facility space necessary to process the plant.

“I am certain that you are going to get some kind of fumes from that,” Planning Board member George “Moonlight” Davis said. “The minute that neighbors start complaining about the odor, it would make it difficult for that business to be in an even semi-residential area.”

The Planning Board discussed the distinctions of each district to help guide their decision. Board member Debra Smith’s recognition that the Village Residential District was designed to be more of a residential neighborhood exemplifies why the board had initially been hesitant to grant certain permissions. Greater demand for marijuana business, however, prompted a second look. Board members agreed that the town should allow broader permissions, but that they should proceed with caution as they issue special permits.

“I think that each one of those situations should be really examined by us,” Davis said of potential marijuana businesses in town.

The limitations of the “microbusiness” category made the amendment seem less risky to the board. Businesses of this nature would be small-scale operations that fit unobtrusively within the district’s residential scheme, so in combination with permission being on a special permit basis, the Planning Board hopes to minimize disruption. Larger-scale operations, such as the retail stores that may now exceed 5,000 square feet in the French King Commercial District by special permit, would need to remain outside of residential areas.

According to Erving Planning Assistant Mariah Kurtz, the Planning Board’s proposal must now be confirmed by the Selectboard. Residents will then have a chance to weigh in on the amendments at a public hearing before voting on them at a Town Meeting. Finally, the Attorney General’s Office must approve the changes.

With these amendments, all four primary districts in Erving (Central Village, French King Commercial, Village Residential and Rural Residential) would be able to harbor marijuana microbusinesses, delivery-only retailers and indoor cultivation by means of special permit.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.




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