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COVID-19 slows progress on proposed outdoor cannabis grow in Becket

Robert T. Ronzio Becket Planning Board (copy)

Robert Ronzio, left, chair of the Becket Planning Board, leads a session of the panel in November. The board last week asked the proponents of a proposed outdoor cannabis farm to file documents by Jan. 28 and attend a board meeting Feb. 9. 

BECKET — Proponents of a cannabis-cultivation project in Becket are expected to file new plans in less than two weeks, overcoming delays they blame on COVID-19, then address questions in early February.

“We are at the mercy of everyone’s ebbs and flows,” Michael Goodenough, a partner in TetraHydra AgTek LLC, told planners last week.

It has been a year since TetraHydra AgTek first stepped forward with a plan to create the largest kind of outdoor growing facility allowed by the state Cannabis Control Commission. The farm would be located on a tract north of Quarry Road off Bonny Rigg Hill Road, about a half-mile above the Massachusetts Turnpike.

That application was withdrawn, then resubmitted. Consideration faced further delay while TetraHydra AgTek negotiated a host community agreement.

A large number of Becket residents has turned out at every turn, some opposed to a project they believe would subject the area to unwanted odors.

In a brief virtual visit Wednesday with the Planning Board, Goodenough and a colleague, Brian Vincent, said that, as of last week, they had been unable to complete a plan for the project’s main greenhouse building. Its location on the parcel was getting a fresh look after talks with the Conservation Commission, Vincent said.

To keep the structure away from wetlands, designers are turning it 180 degrees, Vincent said, and reshaping it to be more rectangular.

The Planning Board asked the team to have a plan filed by Jan. 28 and to be ready to discuss it at the panel’s Feb. 9 meeting.

When asked about postponements, the company representatives said the coronavirus has brought unexpected barriers. The project’s original architect lost his mother to COVID-19. And the manufacturer of the kind of greenhouse they intend to use recently shut down, in Canada, because of the virus.

Vincent said that the specific footprint of the greenhouse affects how the project would manage stormwater. That work was not yet complete, he said.

Planning Board Chairman Robert Ronzio told the more than 50 people monitoring the meeting on Zoom that his panel needed to receive more information and said it wasn’t unusual for projects under review to receive continuances.

“Once we have all the information, then we will render a decision,” Ronzio said. “We need to give the applicant the time to do it.”

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Managing editor for innovation

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.

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