Size of cannabis cultivation facilities on STM warrant

  • Royalston’s Selectboard closed the warrant Tuesday night for the special town meeting scheduled for July 23. From left — Roland Hamel, Chair Christine Long, and member Deb D’Amico. Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 7/15/2019 9:55:09 PM

ROYALSTON – The Selectboard Tuesday night voted to close the warrant for a special town meeting which has been scheduled for Tuesday, July 30. The warrant consists of five articles which include requests for funding for several items, as well as an article which would greatly expand the size of marijuana cultivation facilities allowed in the community.

“We have an article to borrow a sum of money to abate the hazardous materials at the Raymond building and replace its roof,” said board Chair Christine Long. “We don’t have the exact figure yet, but it’s going to be the neighborhood, probably, of $200,000. That would be contingent upon passage of a debt exclusion to pay for that debt.”

Finance Committee Chair Larry Seigel asked if the board considered how long it would be extended, and how much it would cost per year.

“That’s a good point, Larry,” said Long. “Before town meeting we should probably figure that out. With that kind of money, we’d probably go for 20 years. I’m not sure.”

Another article calls for the expenditure of monies to replace the motor in the grader belonging to the Department of Public Works.

“This is the main grader – the only grader – we use on all our dirt roads,” said Long, “and it’s inoperable at the moment. We have been getting by this year through the kindness of Phillipston, who has lent us their grader. This is going to be a big-ticket item. The DPW supervisor says it’s going to be close to $50,000.”

Article 4 calls for the abolition of the town’s Sewer Commission.

“We’ve had conflicts over the years between the Sewer Commission and the DPW,” said Long. “We want to straighten this out and get rid of the commission, and this board will act as the sewer commission, when necessary. This is the model that Winchendon uses, and other towns use as well.”

Regarding the establishment of cannabis cultivation businesses in Royalston, the town’s existing zoning bylaw provides only for Tier 1 and Tier 2 facilities, meaning the largest facility currently allowed tops out at 10,000 square feet.

The article submitted via citizen petition would establish 11 tiers of cultivation operation, the maximum allowed under state law. If the article passes, it would provide for the creation of operations as large as 100,000 square feet. The petition was circulated by Damon Schmidt, who represents a group of investors planning to set up a cultivation facility at 130 South Royalston Road/Route 68, just south of Stockwell Road. The proposed business would meet the existing maximum of 10,000 square feet.

A second article submitted via citizen petition, and again circulated by Schmidt, would further amend the zoning bylaws by limiting the number of recreational or medical cannabis establishments in excess of 10,000 square feet to a single operation.

An email sent to the Selectboard, Planning Board, Board of Health, and a number of other municipal boards by Stockwell Road residents Tom and Leslie Freudenheim raises numerous concerns over the prospect of allowing grow facilities as large as 100,000 square feet. The correspondence cites such issues as the impact of such an operation on the residential nature of the community, the potential impact on infrastructure and possible increased costs to the town, the effect on property values, the impact on the municipal sewer system, and odors emanating from the facility.

The Freudenheims split their time between Royalston and New York City.

Board member Roland Hamel told the couple if they have serious concerns about the proposed changes in zoning bylaws, they need to ensure that they – and those who agree with them – show up to vote at the special town meeting.

While special town meetings are generally sparsely attended, there seemed to be some consensus that the proposed zoning bylaw changes may draw a larger than normal crowd.

The Royalston Community School will be closed on July 23. The meeting will be held at the Town Hall starting at 7 p.m.

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