HINSDALE — Residents around Ashmere Lake in Hinsdale are pushing back against a proposed cannabis-cultivation facility at 246 Peru Road.
Ipswitch Pharmaceutical Associates is seeking permission to grow marijuana at the property for recreational and medicinal use. Members of the nearby neighborhoods say they fear that the odor from the growing operation, which includes 2 acres of outdoor space, would harm real estate values and business in the town.
"The smell that occurs from these facilities, cultivated outside, they're rather pungent, and they carry for some distance," said Scott Rodman, of Ashmere Heights. "I think it's more and more of the concern, especially in an area where there are lots of houses nearby."
The opposition comes weeks after residents received letters from Allegrone Construction Co. with details about the proposed site. Residents said this letter was the first they had heard about the Peru Road proposal, although Hinsdale Town Administrator Bob Graves said the town has been in conversation with Ipswich for years.
According to Graves, Ipswich approached Hinsdale in 2018 to seek a host community agreement for its first cultivation facility, a property on Bullards Crossing at the south end of town. The next year, Ipswich asked to add on a second property to the agreement, an old farm on Peru Road. Neighbors of this location at residential Ashmere Lake object to this site for cultivation.
"Our concern is not so much that they're trying to grow cannabis, but is that the location that they're growing it in is a somewhat residential area, relatively near to the lake, upwind from the lake, and everything we've read says that odor can be a major concern," said Bob Johnson, treasurer of the Ashmere Landing Homeowners Association.
In addition to houses, the 287-acre lake hosts two summer camps each year. Johnson said that one of them, Camp Taconic, brings in nearly 500 campers. He believes that the odor would drive away summer business and hurt property values. Although residents admit that they are not experts, they say their research worries them.
"I think we approached it with the idea of, `Let's look at the facts,' not with the idea that we were just opposed. I think we wanted to learn and ask questions and find out what the ramifications would be," Rodman said.
"I think as we looked into it, we've just seen more and more of the issues that are of concern."
Johnson pointed to several towns in Berkshire County that have raised similar opposition to cannabis businesses because of odor. Daniel Gustafik, president of a marijuana facility design firm, told The Eagle in a 2019 interview that, when it comes to smell, "it is extremely common to have a neighborhood outcry."
"So, when you're trying to get your approval for the zoning, you talk about [odor control] in the same breath," he said.
Matthew Bandle, of Ipswich, said in a statement that the company has complied with state and town regulations regarding the Peru Road facility and seeks to be transparent about its plans.
When asked specifically about potential harm to property values and about Ipswich's plan to mitigate odors, Bandle referred back to his statement with no further comment.
Graves said that the Hinsdale Planning Board will wait to convene again until public meetings can be held in person. For now, the marijuana issue is at a standstill.
The group of residents opposing the facility planned to meet soon to consider its next steps, according to Johnson. He said the issue extends beyond the residents' community and feels that their search for answers has particular significance.
"This is not a Lake Ashmere or even just a Hinsdale problem," he said. "Cannabis-growing, anywhere there's open land, is going to be pursued. There's a lot of money to be made, both for individual investors and for the towns."
"This train is on the track, and it's not going to be turning off any time soon," he said.
Christopher Parker can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cparkerreports.