Former Bernardston restaurant leased by marijuana growers sees vandalism

  • Owners of the former Bella Notte restaurant, located at 199 Huckle Hill Road in Bernardston, say 31 double-pane windows were smashed out in a recent incident of vandalism. —Photo courtesy of the Bernardston Police Department

  • Owners of the former Bella Notte restaurant at 199 Huckle Hill Road in Bernardston say 31 double-pane windows were smashed out in a recent incident of vandalism. contributed photo

  • Owners of the former Bella Notte restaurant, located at 199 Huckle Hill Road in Bernardston, say 31 double-pane windows were smashed out in a recent incident of vandalism. —Photo courtesy of Michael Behn

Recorder Staff
Published: 7/26/2017 10:24:37 PM

BERNARDSTON — Just as renovation of the former Bella Notte restaurant got underway, with plans to turn it into a medical marijuana growing facility, Happy Valley Compassion Center’s founders are facing a potential setback following extensive vandalism to the building.

According to Michael Behn, president and chief operating officer of The Sandri Companies that is responsible for the leased property through its subsidiary company WLR Realty, LLC, 31 double-pane glass windows were smashed in the 199 Huckle Hill Road building.

“Virtually every exterior window was smashed out, and some of the interior windows between rooms were also smashed out,” Behn said. Glass in the doors was broken, too, he added, estimating the total damage at $30,000 to $40,000.

According to Bernardston Police Chief James Palmeri, police were notified of the damage at around 8 p.m. Sunday by someone walking their dog in the area. The department thinks the vandalism occurred within the past several days.

“We don’t believe robbery or theft was the motive,” Palmeri said. “This is clearly an act of vandalism.”

Because the property is gated and inaccessible by vehicle, Behn said the perpetrator would have had to access the lot by foot or on an ATV.

Palmeri said police collected evidence and a Franklin County Sheriff’s Office K9 was called in. He said the department has a couple leads, but encourages anyone who heard or saw someone or something unusual in the area to call the Bernardston Police Department at 413-648-9208.

“The Sandri (Companies are) offering a substantial reward for any information leading to the arrest of the individual or individuals responsible for this incident,” Behn added.

Behn and Jim Counihan, chief executive officer of Happy Valley Compassion Center, learned about the damage on Monday.

“It’s a shame,” Behn said. “It’s just mindless destruction, there’s no sense to it.”

“(I was) shocked and surprised,” Counihan said. “It’s a pretty quiet, sleepy area up there.”

Happy Valley Compassion Center, a nonprofit medical marijuana organization, leases the former restaurant with plans to turn it into a grow facility. Counihan said previously that building renovations would involve adding dividing walls, compartmentalizing the open floor plan to segregate plants in different stages of the grow process.

Having started in late spring, Counihan said the plan was to have renovations complete and to start growing as early as fall, but is unsure how repairing the damage from the vandalism might set the organization back.

“It just adds more cost onto the project,” Counihan said. “At the end of the day, we’re a startup company trying to get this business off the ground … This cost certainly doesn’t help.”




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