Becket passes on marijuana cultivation, rejects facility proposal

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BECKET — The voters of Becket voted overwhelmingly in favor for medical marijuana in Massachusetts in 2012. Four years later, the town has rejected a proposed cultivation facility in the town's Yokum Pond Road area.

"We're not here to force this," said Joseph McCarthy, the President of Ipswich Pharmaceuticals.

Ipswich Pharmaceuticals proposed to build a two-acre cultivation facility in a 26-acre lot at Yokum Pond Road on Becket's northwest corner. The facility would have had two greenhouses, converted from pre-fabricated storage units, with double steel doors and hard top plastic shell roofs.

The hearing on Wednesday was to obtain a letter of either support or neutrality from the town's Select Board necessary to continue the permitting process. Without such a letter, the project could not go forward.

The reaction was decidedly negative from the approximately 60 assembled townspeople's at the public hearing on the proposed facility on Wednesday. One by one, residents stood up and denounced the perceived industrial character of the project and the disruption to the peace and quiet many had moved to the town to take advantage of.

Residents listed their concerns — light pollution, security, and the industrial character of the business chief among them.

"The applicants will likely install large security lights which will negatively affect my backyard with light pollution," said Margaret de Cubas in a letter of opposition. McCarthy replied that the facility would use low-light infrared lighting.

Donna Maronde, whose land abuts the property, said she didn't want to hear the hum of industrial fans all night long. McCarthy said the facility will use household fans, not industrial fans.

Bob Hirsch said he feared the industry would lower property values and lead to more industry in the town.

Planning Board Chairman Bob Ronzio clarified the town's bylaws on the last point, telling the crowd that Becket's zoning laws make commercial and industrial permits tough to come by. The entire town is classified as residential-agricultural, he said, so industrial and commercial zoning can only get through by special permit.

But the real concern seemed to be the desire of those assembled to maintain the quiet character of the town.

"I found my own little slice of the world here in Becket," said Keith Mackey. "I do not want a marijuana growing facility in my backyard."

It was a theme that members of the public kept returning to. Abutters of the project said the tranquility for which they had purchased homes to experience was in danger of being disrupted by the facility.

The sole supporter to speak in favor of the project was year-round resident Michael Lavery. Lavery said that the tax revenue and jobs the facility would bring to the town made the project worth it and that the building would not be visible from the road.

"There's no better use for the land," Lavery said.

But his vocal support was a lonely island in a sea of rejection. While Lavery's remarks in support got a smattering of applause, loud cheers from the crowd supported most of those opposed to the project.

The crowd itself, Lavery said, was made up of mostly second homeowners. Lavery said that by his count, about 80 to 90 percent of those in opposition to the project were not year round residents.

"I didn't recognize most of them," he said.

The Select Board voted 2-1 to reject the proposal. Select Board Chairman William Elovirta and Clerk Nicole Ledoux were in favor of rejection, while Vice-Chairwoman Jeanne Pryor was not.

When The Eagle asked McCarthy if he and Ipswich were interested in other sites around the town, he was noncommittal.

"It doesn't seem like they want us here," he said.


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