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Day care center parents speak out against proposed marijuana facility in Easthampton 

  • FILE - This Sept. 15, 2015 file photo shows marijuana plants a few weeks away from harvest in a medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill. A survey of U.S. cancer doctors released on Thursday, May 10, 2018, finds nearly half say they've recently recommended medical marijuana to patients, although most say they don't know enough about medicinal use. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File) Seth Perlman



Staff Writer
Thursday, December 06, 2018

EASTHAMPTON — A medical and recreational marijuana facility proposed for 195 Northampton St. received backlash Tuesday night from the parents of children attending a day care center sited about 180 feet away.

The Herbology Group, of Pittsfield, is seeking a special permit from the Planning Board for a 9,355-square-foot medical marijuana cultivation facility and a co-located medical and adult-use retail facility. Tuesday’s hearing for Herbology’s special permit application was a continuation from its first meeting with the board in October.

“How much risk are we willing to take?” asked Easthampton resident Lindsey Lajoie, who has a child attending All About Children at 15 Industrial Parkway. “All the tax revenue in the world is not worth it.”

Among the concerns brought by nearly a dozen parents to the Planning Board were customers publicly consuming marijuana near the day care center, odors from the facility that could reach the day care’s playground, and an overflow of cars spilling into surrounding parking lots and roads.

“It’s not safe or appropriate for this type of business,” said James Winston, whose son attends the day care center.

There would be people smoking in line waiting to get into the facility, Winston said, posing health hazards to the children playing on All About Children’s playground.

Adam Szymkowicz, an English teacher at White Brook Middle School, expressed concern with “rushing into the retail aspect” of recreational marijuana use.

“It doesn’t seem like the right place” for the marijuana facility, Szymkowicz said, adding that long lines and too many cars searching for parking would have a detrimental effect on the day care center.

“It’s too close to the play area and especially to children,” Szymkowicz said.

Tony Capachietti, a consultant to the project from Hayes Engineering, said there would be signs posted around the property and on Industrial Parkway warning against public cannabis consumption. There also would be flagpoles with surveillance cameras installed to monitor such activity, he said.

Kate Crowther, an associate consultant to the project from the Novus Group, said those caught consuming marijuana publicly could be barred from going to any dispensary in the state.

Capachietti said plans call for an approximately 8-foot wooden fence, built on the side of the property facing the day care center to block visibility. In addition, he said, air exchanges with carbon filters would be replaced every six weeks to control the marijuana odor from the proposed facility.

Easthampton zoning bylaws allow for retail marijuana facilities in highway business and industrial areas, and while they require a 350-foot buffer around public schools, there is no such buffer for day care centers.

City Councilor Owen Zaret said at the meeting that he has proposed an “open container” bylaw to deter people from consuming marijuana in public.

Zaret said he’s reached out to INSA, an Easthampton medical marijuana shop, and New England Treatment Access, a Northampton medicinal and recreational marijuana shop, and found that there have been no reports of public consumption of marijuana at either location.

Planning Board member Christopher Cockshaw said the board was concerned with whether or not the special permit application met the criteria set by city ordinances.

Acting Chairman James Zarvis said the hearing was not meant to revisit why the 350-foot buffer rule does not apply to day care centers, but instead determine what applicable issues Herbology’s application needed to address, such as how cars would queue when visiting the facility.

“This is in an industrial zone — it would seem like the perfect place” for a marijuana facility, Zarvis said. “But the child care center being in the industrial zone — that seems like the problem.”

The Planning Board decided to continue the hearing on Jan. 8. The board wants to see updated site plans that reflect the flagpoles with mounted cameras, updated landscaping plans, emergency access plans, and an opening day contingency plan.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com