Greenfield residents allege sound and odor issues from candle, cannabis businesses

AP File Photo/Marina Riker

AP File Photo/Marina Riker AP File Photo/Marina Riker

By ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-17-2024 5:17 PM

Modified: 05-20-2024 9:36 AM


GREENFIELD — After more than four hours of discussion, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted to continue public hearings involving an Arch Street cannabis cultivation site’s request for a special permit to manufacture marijuana concentrate, as well as the 38 Haywood St. candle manufacturing facility Aromatic Fillers’ license status.

The board voted Thursday to continue both items to its next meeting on June 13. Both issues prompted significant debate from neighbors on the strong odors and noises the businesses allegedly release.

15 Arch St. LLC

John Hadden has co-owned the cannabis grow facility 15 Arch St. LLC since its formation in 2018. He appeared before the ZBA seeking a special permit to begin manufacturing cannabis concentrate, commonly known as “hash resin” — a process that he said can be done using primarily heat and water, without the release of harmful chemicals or noxious odors.

Neighbors abutting the 15 Arch St. site sought smell and noise mitigation as conditions for the permit, claiming that the smell of cannabis and the persistent humming noise emanating from the facility are nuisances in their lives.

Richard and Michelle Ordaski, who abut the property, told the ZBA that while they do not smell cannabis every day, they will, from time to time, smell a strong and lingering odor from their property.

“As soon as I got out of the car, I could smell it,” Richard Ordaski said. “It was bad and my wife said, ‘It’s been like this all day.’”

Hadden outlined his noise mitigation practices, noting that the only way for him to further reduce the humming would be to install a soundproof fence around the property or invest in a multi-million-dollar heating, ventilation and air conditioning system that he said would put him out of business.

The business owner also said he would agree to hire a sound engineer to address the scope of the alleged noise pollution. He said a sound measure taken on a mobile phone detected 65 decibels directly outside his home and roughly 50 decibels across the street from his house.

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“A bird went by and it was 82 [decibels], but obviously that’s not an unpleasant sound,” Hadden remarked.

In response, Michelle Ordaski said she was willing to not request sound mitigation conditions until a sound engineer has studied the issue and suggested effective solutions. She noted that she did not wish for Hadden to spend money on sound or smell mitigation that would not work.

Deborah Rossman, who lives across the street from the grow facility, said the humming and strong odor of marijuana have been a persistent threat to her and her husband’s comfort and health. She said she runs air purifiers in her house all day and has rushed her husband to the hospital for breathing issues on multiple occasions.

“The noise is unbearable. ... I can hear it in my backyard, I can hear it inside of my house with the windows shut. It’s unreasonable,” Rossman said. “The smell is unbearable. My husband has some major breathing issues and he’s developed a cough [...] his breathing has gotten much worse since this establishment came online.”

After hearing Hadden and his neighbors’ testimonies, the board could not identify specific conditions to attach to the special permit request and voted to continue the public hearing to June 13, giving the business time to hire a sound engineer, gauge the level of noise escaping the property, and find reasonable sound and smell mitigation solutions.

Aromatic Fillers

The ZBA also deliberated over resident Marion Griswold’s claim that the candle manufacturing facility Aromatic Fillers, located at 38 Haywood St., was operating without proper permitting and emitting noxious odors.

Griswold addressed the board, claiming that Aromatic Fillers owner Todd Green had been operating his business since 2015 with a manufacturing license that the ZBA granted for a tool manufacturing business. She explained that although the lot is zoned for residential use, the 2-acre lot was grandfathered for commercial use, and in 2014, Robert Savage was granted a manufacturing permit for the production of cutting tools. She said Savage did not move into the Haywood Street facility, where Green then moved his candle operation, using the same permit.

“I’m asking that the ZBA require that Aromatic Fillers apply for a special permit to operate in this location,” Griswold said. “The operation of Aromatic Fillers’ business involves a number of impacts on the neighborhood. ... These include the emission of chemical pollutants into the air, which neighbors have complained about repeatedly over the course of five and a half years.”

Green’s attorney Jacob Morris argued that his client submitted a detailed affidavit to the board when he began manufacturing candles in 2015. Morris also argued that the business’ original manufacturing permit could be used for the current candle factory.

Morris volleyed with ZBA Chair David Singer, debating whether Aromatic Fillers’ manufacturing operations were still permitted now that the business is making candles. Singer argued that the original special permit was issued under entirely different proposed uses of the site than its current operation, while Morris argued that Green’s business still complies with all of the conditions listed in the original permit.

“If you get a green light to use [the site] for tool manufacturing, but you don’t do that, and now you want to do something else, you need to get another green light, because what you’re doing is different,” Singer said. “Even if it’s better. Going for a special permit isn’t a fatal process. It’s just a process whereby the neighbors have a chance to weigh in.”

Green told the board that since he opened his business, he has invested thousands of dollars in HVAC systems and carbon filters with the aim of minimizing unpleasant odors. He added that Aromatic Fillers’ “mix on the fly” wax scenting process releases significantly less odor than other large-scale candle manufacturers, such as Yankee Candle. He added that the only way he could further mitigate his factory’s scent is through purchasing multi-million-dollar technology used by the Army to protect combat troops against chemical warfare. Even then, Green said, the scent would not disappear.

“I would say we have done the most that we can,” Green said. “Yes, we make a product that has a fragrance and I don’t deny that it can escape. But what I would say is we have done what we are capable of doing, and we’re satisfying the [Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection] with the mitigation that we are doing.”

When discussions opened to the public, a significant number of neighboring residents, including City Council President John Bottomley, stated that the candle manufacturing site emits a pungent and unpleasant odor. Bottomley argued that residents were not given the opportunity to express their concerns on a candle manufacturing facility opening near their homes, since Green did not apply for a new special permit.

“This is affecting negatively the quality of life for me personally and my neighbors,” Bottomley said. “If a scent company was coming in, we need to make sure that this is not going to be so bad, that it’s going to be conditioned so that it’s not going to wreck our neighborhood.”

Former Mayor Roxann Wedegartner and her husband, Richard Wedegartner, both spoke at the meeting, arguing that although they live close to the property, the smell has not bothered them. Roxann Wedegartner referred to Green’s business as being a “great corporate neighbor.”

“I have personally never smelled odors that were detrimental to me. As I said, I don’t live right across the street from it,” she said. “Hopefully something can be worked out that will be satisfactory to the neighbors.”

At around 11:45 p.m., the board voted to continue the public hearing on Aromatic Fillers to June 13.

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.