Mattapoisett Planning Board Chairman Tom Tucker made no attempt on October 7 to disguise his distaste in having amendments to the current Marijuana Zoning Bylaws be heard in a public meeting. As the petitioner, Stuart Bronstein, explained why the amendments were being put before the public, Tucker maintained a controlled but clearly displeased countenance.
Before the hearing was underway, Tucker asked Bronstein if he was back because “you didn’t get what you wanted at the last town meeting.” Bronstein responded in the affirmative.
Bronstein, flanked by marijuana industry consultants Jason Dick and James Sullivan, said that allowing him to grow recreational cannabis alongside his medical plants in his facility would make the plan, simply put, economically feasible.
Bronstein said that the investment requires a state-of-the-art marijuana growing facility that would not be cost justifiable for just medical use.
“We need the recreational piece,” said Bronstein. “[It’s] the only way to make it a worthy investment, and in order to get financing we need recreational cultivation.”
Bronstein said that the town would benefit by receiving 3 percent of the profits and that “good- paying” full-time and part-time jobs with convenient hours for parents, and could employ anywhere between 75 to 100 people.
When public participation was called, Breck Eagle, a Bay Club resident who had submitted a multi-page letter against the amendments, claimed that his brother in Santa Barbara, California experienced first-hand the odor he finds offensive created by marijuana cultivation, “Especially when the plant is flowering,” said Eagle.
Bronstein said facilities like those use systems designed for flower cultivation, not for odor mitigation. He said that his 140,000-square-foot Industrial Drive warehouse would be fitted with state-of-the-art air quality and filtration systems. According to Bronstein, the designs and plans he first forwarded when the medical marijuana zoning bylaws were adopted have not changed, except that now, if these new amendments are granted, more growing could take place.
Dick added his voice, saying, “The market in Massachusetts for recreational marijuana is huge.”
He said that although pricing for marijuana had softened on the medical side, demand was growing on the recreational side. Dick said the inclusion of recreational cannabis would result in a substantial financial gain for the town, but he hesitated to put a number on what the town’s portion could be in terms of dollars.
That sentiment was echoed by Bronstein, who said that the town’s portion of what he described as upwards of $100 million in sales could help pay for new schools, the fire station bond, and other large public works projects.
“It would be a shame for the town to not take advantage of this opportunity,” Bronstein said.
Tucker’s reaction was, “We’ve heard it all before.”
Resident Christine Cowles was concerned that the bylaw did not include input from the community and questioned why the community had not been involved in the crafting of marijuana bylaws. But there have been public hearings, said Planning Board member Janice Robins, and an exhaustive amount of work had gone into writing the bylaw currently in place, she said. But Cowles maintained that the current bylaw and the proposed amendments are weak and conform to the industry’s interests. “The devil’s in the details,” said Cowles, details she believes are lacking.
Robins assured Cowles that the Planning Board could write rules and regulations governing the operation of the grow facility.
Tucker said that the Planning Board was not there that night to take any vote on the article, and that the board was simply the vehicle by which zoning bylaw changes are publicly vetted. “We are not voting on anything tonight.”
Tucker’s statement, however, proved incorrect.
While the Planning Board could have opted to make no recommendation, Planning Board Administrator Mary Crain said a vote was needed.
The ensuing vote resembled what the board members had voted during the previous spring: three votes to recommend, one vote opposed. In the spring vote it was 3-2 with member Karen Field and Tucker opposed. On this night, Tucker stood alone.
Crain explained in a follow-up that planning boards have a duty to express their support or to make no comment, but generally an ‘up or down’ vote is the rule. In the case of the amendments coming before the voters, she said that because the Planning Board majority voted to recommend the article last spring, further amendments could be sought now. Had the Planning Board voted to oppose the article last spring, then a two-year cooling off period would have prevented Bronstein’s petition at this time, according to Crain.
The Special Town Meeting scheduled for November 4 will feature a very short warrant. Town Administrator Michael Gagne confirmed that the only articles voters will be asked to consider are amendments to the Zoning Bylaw for the cultivation of both recreational and medical marijuana in the industrial zone.
This November 4 Special Town Meeting is in addition to the October 21 Special Town Meeting.
In other business, Tree Warden Roland Cote received permission to remove a locust tree located at 6 Prospect Road due to root damage on private property.
MA Homes LLC, 56 Church Street, received acceptance for a Form A: Approval Not Required.
Another filing for an ANR sought by the Town of Mattapoisett for property located on Reservation Road was continued due to a lack of representation.
An ANR filed by Scott Snow for property located at 6 and 8 Prospect Road, Eldridge Estates, was accepted.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for October 29 at 7:00 pm in the Town Hall conference room.
Mattapoisett Planning Board
By Marilou Newell