Cork 'N Hearth restaurant, site of proposed retail recreational marijuana store.

Developers plan to buy the Cork ’N Hearth restaurant in Lee and convert it into a marijuana-manufacturing/retail facility. The Select Board cleared the plan Tuesday, despite opponents’ concerns about odor and traffic, but said it would review both issues periodically over the first year of operation.

LEE — Lee is a step closer to getting its second recreational marijuana store.

After a two-hour public hearing Tuesday night, the Select Board unanimously backed a special permit for Forest Wilde LLC to convert the Cork ‘N Hearth into a facility to manufacture and sell marijuana products.

The 3-0 vote followed mixed support for the project, dominated by the potential impact the facility would have on traffic on the state highway.

The Zoom meeting also featured comments and dozens of letters from Lee residents, along with several Berkshire businesspeople, saying the company should have a chance to succeed.

But, Lakehouse Inn owner Cody Gavin felt that the marijuana store didn’t belong next door to his establishment.

“We believe the business makes a drastic change to the neighborhood and the business is drastically different than the Cork ‘N Hearth,” he said.

The Lakehouse Inn owners also were among the opponents who felt that the winding stretch of Route 20 would pose a problem for vehicles entering and exiting restaurant property without the help of a left-turn lane.

Proponents felt that the impact wouldn’t be a problem and the business should be welcomed into town.

The Select Board agreed to review the traffic issue, as well as odor control from the building, after three months, six months and one year of operation.

“I think we’re overreacting to what’s going to happen [with traffic], based on Canna,” said Selectwoman Patricia Carlino.

Carlino was referring to similar fears about traffic troubles — they never materialized — after Canna Provisions opened the town’s first pot shop nearly two years ago, on Housatonic Street just off the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The Lee Planning Board already has approved the project’s site plan and a 380-square-foot addition to the front for secured storage of cannabis products.

Jeanne Carmichael, of Lee, and Cassandra Purdy, of Roxbury, Conn., principals of Forest Wilde, now will seek a license from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission to operate. The developers plan to buy the Cork ‘N Hearth, which remains open for dine-in and takeout dinners, according to its website.

The restaurant sits between the Lenox Town Beach and the Lakehouse Inn.

Lee Police Chief Craig DeSantis was among several town officials who remained concerned about the traffic impact.

“I think there’s a seriously higher vehicle count coming in and out of the site than the applicant alludes to,” DeSantis said during the Zoom meeting.

A lack of a left-turn lane also was a concern; the developer noted that the traffic count doesn’t meet the criteria for a third lane on the state road.

Some opponents also wondered whether Forest Wilde had enough parking on-site, but project consultant Peter D’Agostino said the 46 spaces, most of which are in the rear of the building, were adequate.

“We have zero concerns on our parking capacity,” he said. “It’s one of the largest parking lots in the state [for a cannabis store].”

D’Agostino noted off-site employee parking also could be an option to maximize customer parking.

The main entrance to the store would be at the upper level from the parking area, and the developer has agreed to have traffic-control measures in place for peak times.

Forest Wilde says it would need four to six months to convert slightly less than half the 4,550-square-foot eatery into retail space. The remaining space mostly would be for manufacturing cannabis products, as well as office space.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at

Sign-up for The Berkshire Eagle's free newsletters