PITTSFIELD — Two recreational marijuana businesses are one step closer to opening up shops after they were granted special permits by the city Wednesday.
Berkshire native Tim Mack, who owns Berkshire Hydroponics at 1450 East St., was given the OK to open a retail marijuana shop in an adjacent suite in the same building.
Mack intends on having about 10 employees at the 1,500-square-foot store, which would be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
"My other store is open 10 to 6; I'd like to have two shifts for the employees," he said. "I figured they can get out early enough so they can go home and see their families."
Jack Carney, a principal at Green Biz LLC, was granted a special permit to open one shop at 1021 South St., but a second location at 139 North St. was met with pushback from abutters and others who feel it is too close to the Pittsfield Adult Learning Center.
State law requires a buffer zone of at least 500 feet between a recreational marijuana dispensary and schools, day care centers, or any facility in which children commonly congregate.
Both Green Biz LLC and Mack, of Kryppies LLC, were given favorable recommendations from the Community Development Board earlier this month, after the city approved an overall cap of 35 marijuana retail licenses.
While retail licenses are expected to activate with approval from the state July 1, the city's first retail outlet, Berkshire Roots, opened last month under its medical marijuana license. Another, Temescal Wellness, broke ground last month and is slated to open this year.
As for the Green Biz North Street location, Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Jason McCandless and several neighbors submitted letters arguing that the center is a school and therefore the shop should not be permitted in the area.
Michael Martin, an attorney representing the owner of the building where the center is located, told the Zoning Board of Appeals that the program has about 100 students, some as young as 16.
Aside from offering GED preparation classes, students can earn their diplomas at the Adult Learning Center, he said.
"They actually offer a diploma program where the students in this school can earn what's described as a high school diploma, so it's hard to describe it as anything but a school," Martin said Wednesday.
If the board decides not to consider the center a school, Martin argued that the proposed site would also be within 300 feet from a juvenile court.
"I don't think you need to get to the character of the neighborhood because I think it's a school," he said.
Julianne Boyd, artistic director of the Barrington Stage Company, also spoke out against the proposed location.
Boyd told the board that Barrington Stage hosts dozens of underage students throughout the year, including in a court-mandated "youth at risk" program.
"We have worked so hard to change the tenor and character of that neighborhood and we think this would put that in jeopardy," she said.
The board decided not to take action on the Green Biz LLC North Street proposal until its next meeting June 20. In the meantime, the board has requested the city's solicitor to make a determination as to whether the Adult Learning Center qualifies as a school.
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at email@example.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.