Whately Town Meeting OKs marijuana, brewery change and Town Hall funding

  • Hitchcock Brewing Company in Whately is owned by Rich and Geneva Pederson. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

  • Hitchcock Brewing Company in Whately, which is owned by Rich and Geneva Pederson, is the newest brewery to open in Franklin County; behind the brewery, the couple grows about 850 hop plants, which they use in the beer. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 4/25/2018 11:50:28 PM

WHATELY — Recreational marijuana farms and retail shops are now legal, Hitchcock Brewing Co. can apply for a special permit to upgrade its tasting room to a pouring room and the Town Hall will receive $102,000 of taxpayer money to pay for its final repairs in what turned out to be the most controversial topic at Tuesday night’s annual Town Meeting.

The meeting also saw the approval of a $5 million budget.

Though the hundred or so residents at Whately Elementary School could have voted for a temporary moratorium on recreational marijuana sales, residents decided nearly unanimously, with little to no debate, on new bylaws that allow for marijuana farms and businesses and impose a 3 percent local retail tax on pot.

Local brews

Hitchcock Brewing Co. of Christian Lane, will be able to apply for a special permit to essentially function as a bar, although the Zoning Board can regulate the hours it is open. A new bylaw can help local breweries, like Hitchcock, that are farming the land and want to be able to sell beers in-house to turn a more sustainable profit.

While the article was approved nearly unanimously, the main pushback came from Select Board Chairman Fred Orloski, who said farmland is at a premium and should be left for farming, not for a bar that could go in an available, commercially-zoned space.

Select Board member Jonathan Edwards, who is running for state representative, asserted the town should support Hitchcock, saying, “It’s people wanting to take advantage of the rural agricultural flavor that this town is known for.”


Whately residents approved a $5,068,403 budget, a 3.6 percent increase from last year’s roughly $4.9 million budget. The Finance Committee said this will likely lead to about a 15 cent increase in the tax rate, bringing it up to an unofficial $15.49.

“If you compare that to other towns, there would be some happy campers if they had this,” Finance Committee Chairman Paul Antaya said.

The budget includes a 1.6 percent increase in spending on schools, raising the total from last year by about $42,000 to $2.8 million. The biggest increase, Antaya noted, was in insurance and benefits, which elevated by 13 percent, from last year’s $680,000 to $770,000. He said there is little that can be done about those increases.

Town Hall, capital projects

While all capital projects were approved by residents, the biggest debate of the night stemmed from a request to spend $102,000 on the Town Hall. The money is partly for mandatory handicapped-accessibility upgrades, which, if not completed, would not allow the building inspector to approve Town Hall for occupancy, the Select Board said.

Detractors, including Finance Committee member Joe Zewinski, said spending on this project has been poorly handled.

“My feeling from this is from the beginning the whole thing has been mismanaged,” Zewinski said.

Orloski said it has been well-managed, with public disclosure and approvals along the way.

The Town Hall project is expected to be completed by June, Orloski said.

Residents also approved:

$45,000 to purchase a new police cruiser;

$40,000 to purchase a four-wheel drive rescue and transport vehicle for the Fire Department;

$45,000 to repair the sprinkler system at the Whately Elementary School;

$25,000 for the replacement of the highway garage roof;

$12,700 to purchase a new lawn mower with collection system for the Highway Department;

$7,000 to purchase a new plow for the Ford F550 truck for the Highway Department.

Other capital projects quickly approved Tuesday night:

$6,000 to purchase and install a monitored fire detection system at the fire station;

$8,000 to repair the heating and cooling system at the town offices;

$3,500 to repair the town office roof;

$1,800 to purchase and install a fence at the baseball field adjacent to the fire station.

$5,000 to purchase and install new interior and exterior lights at the S. White Dickinson Memorial Library;

$6,000 to purchase a new lawnmower for the Cemetery Commissioners;

$4,000 in the shared cost to purchase a John Deere 1025R Sub-Compact Utility tractor for the Frontier Regional School District.

The town also approved spending $20,000 for the Whately 250th anniversary celebration, which will act as seed money for the planning team.

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