Greenfield City Council limits size of outdoor pot growing sites

  • A 20-acre parcel at 446 Country Club Road, the site of a proposed outdoor cannabis cultivation site, sits across the street from a residential neighborhood. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/21/2022 6:50:29 PM
Modified: 7/21/2022 6:50:05 PM

GREENFIELD — After months of encouragement from local residents, the City Council approved an amendment to zoning bylaws to reimpose the Tier 1 limit on outdoor cannabis cultivation.

“I want to thank each one of you for expressing your support to each one of us directly,” resident Al Collins told councilors before their vote. “It’s a community-wide issue.”

The unanimous vote, which was met with applause from residents at the John Zon Community Center on Wednesday night, reimposes a Tier 1 limit of 5,000 square feet of canopy, with a limit of three Tier 1 operations allowed on any given parcel.

For the last several months, residents in the neighborhood of 446 Country Club Road — where three limited liability companies have secured host community agreements with the city to operate three Tier 11 outdoor cultivation sites — have expressed concern over the magnitude of the operation planned for the property.

Tier 11 allows for grow sites with up to 100,000 square feet of canopy, which is the largest size possible for a cultivation site in Massachusetts, according to the state Cannabis Control Commission.

Although the city has received no site plans, an Approval Not Required (ANR) plan was endorsed by the Planning Board in May. An ANR allows the owner of land on a public road to split the property without going through the subdivision process. The ANR also protects the land from future changes to the acceptable use of it, meaning if the acceptable use of the land changes, the property would be grandfathered in. The land in question is characterized as rural/residential.

The project on Country Club Road would, however, be subject to the Tier 1 limit, according to city lawyers, as it doesn’t constitute a restriction to the approved use of land.

Councilors, while in favor of the amendment, raised concern over a cultivation site at 493 Leyden Road, which received a special permit last June for a Tier 11 project.

“I just want to make sure the city lives up to the promise it made to the people on the Leyden Road property,” said Precinct 2 Councilor Dan Guin. “I don’t want to see anyone come in … spend the money and almost feel like it’s a bait and switch.”

Planning and Development Director Eric Twarog assured councilors that the Leyden Road project, for which construction has already begun, would be grandfathered in as a legal, nonconforming use.

Precinct 7 Councilor Jasper Lapienski, while also in support of the zoning bylaw amendment, asked for clarification on why the recommendation was for a Tier 1 limit, as opposed to a Tier 2 or Tier 3 limit, for example.

“It may be that in the future it gets moved up,” responded At-Large Councilor Philip Elmer, chair of the Economic Development Committee, which forwarded a positive recommendation to City Council last week. “It was just the simplest, most straightforward way to deal with the problem that we had. That was the thinking.”

The proposal for a moratorium on approvals for outdoor cannabis cultivation altogether — which was the original proposal put forward in a petition that circulated earlier this year, before residents pushed instead to reimpose the Tier 1 limit — was turned down by councilors.

“The opinion of the lawyer was that (the moratorium) wasn’t legal,” Elmer said. “The state was willing to give towns some leeway when (Massachusetts legalized marijuana in 2016), but years have passed. People have been given the rules; you can’t put a moratorium in place.”

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


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