Hearing on articles for mobile food vendors, marijuana cultivation facility continued to June 5

  • Representatives for The Botanist attended a public hearing for a special permit application for a marijuana establishment on Petersham Road. Project engineer Tony Capachietti responds to a question from the Board of Planning and Community Development.Seated, left to right: Becca Rutenberg from Vincente Sederberg LLP, Capachietti, Board members Richard Hayden and Aimee Hanson. Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

  • Dawg Meister owner Michael Kennedy of Ashburnham was granted a vendor/peddler permit in 2018 by a vote of 3-2. Then Athol Chairman of Selectmen Stephen Raymond and Select Woman Rebecca Bialecki voted against the measure, in the interest of public safety, only due to its proximity to the hospital under construction. A new Mobile Food Vendor amendment is now being considered by the town. —File/Deborrah Porter

Staff Writer
Published: 5/23/2019 9:55:27 PM
Modified: 5/23/2019 9:55:17 PM

ATHOL – A public hearing was held last week by the Board of Planning and Community Development to review four articles to amend the Athol Zoning Bylaws, and a special permit application for a marijuana cultivation and processing facility located at 706 Petersham Rd.

The first two articles pertained to Mobile Food Vendors. Town Planner Eric Smith said a discussion of a food vendor bylaw came about when a food truck was granted permission to set up at the corner of Mechanic and Main streets near the hospital where a house had been demolished. There were concerns about it being a traffic hazard and at the time the town didn’t have zoning for food trucks.

The new Mobile Food Vendor amendment is defined in Article IV, Section 4.1 as any person who travels from place to place upon public ways and dispenses food from a food truck, food cart, beverage/coffee truck, ice cream truck, canteen truck, catering truck, breakfast truck, lunch truck, lunch wagon, or any other mobile food vehicle. All Mobile Food Vendor’s vehicles must be registered with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles as required.

Mobile Food Vendor uses that are exempt and do not require zoning approval include operating at a special event approved by the Board of Selectmen, operating as an accessory use to an outdoor municipal or governmental recreational use, including town-owned property that has been leased to a non-profit entity, and when catering a private event not exceeding 48 hours. With the exception of food safety, public safety, and hawker and peddler requirements, the Mobile Food Vendor definition doesn’t apply to canteen trucks, coffee trucks, breakfast trucks, lunch trucks, or lunch wagons that move from place to place and are stationary for no more than 30 minutes at a time, and ice cream trucks that move from place to place, excluding any areas prohibited by town bylaw that are stationary, for no more than ten minutes.

The second article would amend Article II, Section 2.3 Use Regulation Schedule by adding the sub-category of Mobile Food Vendor under “Commercial Uses,” allowing by-right in the Town’s Central Commercial, Neighborhood Commercial, General Commercial and Industrial Commercial zoning districts.

The third and fourth articles involved changing the approval process for ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations. The first would amend Article II, Section 2.3, Use Regulation Schedule by changing under the category of “Other Uses” the sub-category of the solar arrays from by-right to special permit in the Residential-C (RC) zoning district.

The second article would amend the text in Section 3.24.2 indicating that the Board of Planning and Community Development would be the special permit granting authority for ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations in the RC zoning districts.

Board chairman David Small said, “We’ve really been looking hard at the solar bylaws, [with the intent to] step toward more comprehensive zoning changes.” The board voted to accept all four bylaws, and the hearing results will be good for six months until the October Town Meeting.

A public hearing for a Licensed Marijuana Establishment Special Permit application was held with representatives for The Botanist, Inc. According to spokesperson Becca Rutenberg, Director of Strategic Affairs for the law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, The Botanist is an existing medical marijuana manufacturing facility in Sterling and Worcester, with pending sites in Leominster and Shrewsbury. The new two-floor 35,000 square foot building would include rooms for trimming, drying and processing with a septic system beneath the parking lot.

Rutenberg said there would be 50 to 60 employees working different shifts and the building would be fully secured with live monitoring. Any type of movement would be seen by a trained onsite response team, she said. More details will be available at the next hearing.

Kris Burns, who lives across the street from the proposed site, said she is not happy about it and is concerned about the impact it could bring to the neighborhood. “I plead that you think very very carefully about this proposal and application and think about the existing neighborhood and our quality of life.” Another abutter said that “people with bad intent” will just wave at the security camera as they walk by and that it’s “kind of a massive change to all of our lifestyles.” Board member Aimee Hanson said she is concerned that there is not currently a plan for fencing. “Because it is remote and close to Route 2, I would feel more secure with a fence and a gate.”

Small said at the end of the hearing that the board “will pay very close attention to issues of traffic and lighting and follow through.” A continuation will be held at 8:15 p.m. on June 5 in the Town Hall.

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