Proposed marijuana-growing operation in Cummington raises neighbors’ objections

  • Cummington residents meet with Jon Gould, the Hilltown community liaison from the office of state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, to voice their concerns about a proposed marijuana cultivation and processing facility in town. STAFF PHOTO/DUSTY CHRISTENSEN

Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2019 12:04:08 PM

CUMMINGTON — Some residents are raising objections to a company’s plans to set up a large marijuana cultivation and manufacturing facility in town.

A newly formed Springfield-based company, Glacier Rock Farm, Inc., has proposed building the facility on Stage Road. The company has already reached an agreement with the town’s Select Board, and recently held a well-attended community outreach meeting that is required under state law. The proposal has drawn ire from some neighbors of the property where the facility would be built.

On Wednesday, some residents gathered at the Cummington Community House to air their concerns with Jon Gould, the Hilltown community liaison from the office of state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield. 

“They’re talking about putting a Walmart-sized building, initially, back in the woods off a historic road surrounded by neighbors with families and kids,” said Elliot Ring, an architect who lives on State Road. The impact on the neighborhood will be immense, he added.

Those gathered at the meeting said they were worried about light pollution, increased traffic, overuse of part of a dirt road, the effect the construction might have on wetlands and wildlife, and the potential for the project to substantially change the character of their neighborhood.

“I think this is a huge shift to have a large facility like that built next store,” said Monica Bhowmik, whose property is close to the plot where the facility would be built. She said she and her husband decided to raise their kids in Cummington because of the quiet, rural character of the Hilltowns, which she fears will be changed by a large facility.

The residents also questioned the process the town has followed thus far in striking a host community agreement with the company.

A host community agreement is one of the many steps a marijuana company must take before it can begin operations. The agreements include conditions the business must satisfy for that establishment to operate in a municipality. They typically spell out details like the cooperation between the municipality and its police department, or what type of security the company will provide. 

The agreements also usually include a “community impact fee” — capped at a maximum of 3 percent of gross annual revenues of the marijuana business. Those community impact fees, in the words of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, must be “reasonably related to the costs imposed upon the municipality by the operation of the Marijuana Establishment or medical marijuana treatment center.”

Separate from host community agreements, municipalities can also levy a 3-percent local tax on marijuana establishments, but those taxes only apply to retail sales — not to cultivation or processing operations like Glacier Rock is proposing in Cummington.

The host community agreement that the Select Board struck with Glacier Rock Farm on April 18 — the same day Glacier Rock Farm was organized as a Massachusetts business — included a 1.5-percent community impact fee. Some residents have questioned why the town didn’t ask the company for the maximum 3 percent. 

Select Board Chairman Bill Adams told the Gazette that town officials are now in the process of amending that agreement to bump the impact fee up to 3 percent. Adams, who was not on the Select Board when the agreement was signed, said that the 1.5-percent fee was due to an administrative error.

“When I heard 1.5 [percent] I said, ‘That’s not correct,’” Adams recalled. “Basically, within a day or so we called the company and said there’s a mistake.”

Adams said that the Select Board plans to take up an amendment to the host community agreement at its next meeting on Thursday. 

“This is one avenue to help improve and do what’s best for the town in terms of revenue,” Adams said. “As a Select Board member, I’m seeing this as somewhat of an opportunity, within the construct of the law, to help the town with some of its infrastructure improvements and those kinds of things that small towns sorely need.”

But those opposed to the facility say that’s not what host community agreements are intended for, pointing to guidance from the Cannabis Control Commission.

“Municipalities are cautioned against relying on fees that are simply revenue generators in negotiating with Marijuana Establishments and planning their municipal budgets, as these fees may not withstand judicial scrutiny,” the commission’s guidance reads. 

Adams said the host community agreement is just the first step in a lengthy process Glacier Rock Farm must follow. After applying for a license from the state, the company will also have to receive a special permit from the town.

“Everybody’s taking the concerns seriously, and I’m sure the zoning board will weigh it heavily, Adams said. “We just need to let the process work.”

As for his take on the concerns raised by residents, Adams said that he has driven past the property where the facility would be built. He thinks that once it is built, neighbors will for the most part “never know it’s there.”

“That’s my personal belief, but again it depends on the size of the unit, how many trees they take down in the process,” Adams said. “Those details haven’t even been worked out yet.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

Jobs



Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.


Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

Copyright © 2020 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy