HINSDALE — Before a videoconference closed Thursday, the folks proposing a Hinsdale cannabis farm seeded the “chat” with their phone numbers and email addresses — tokens of their promises to remain accessible.
They left with a newly granted special permit, after promising that neighbors’ concerns about odors, heavy water use and road dust would prove to be unfounded.
“We see this as an ongoing conversation, not a finished thing,” said Benjamin Zachs, president of FFD Enterprises MA. “This is the beginning.”
The Hinsdale Select Board closed a public hearing and promptly granted a special permit to the company for a 91,000-square-foot outdoor cannabis farm on Bullards Crossing Road at the south end of town. Just two members, Richard Scialabba and Ray Bolduc, voted, both in favor; Vivian Mason recused herself due to a financial conflict.
HINSDALE — As a cannabis proposal waited, and waited, to come to a public hearing in Hinsdale — eight months in all — a lot changed.
The special permit appears to come in time for FFD to get a crop into the ground this summer. The site will be for cultivation and processing only, with no retail sales.
Approval came after neighbors pressed Zachs and his team for assurance that the venture would not deplete underground water supplies, bring unwanted odors or raise road dust because of traffic.
As at a Planning Board hearing in January, company representatives said their goal is to be good neighbors who hardly are noticed.
That’s what neighbors appeared to want.
“This is our sanctuary. It’s our home,” said Christina L. Filkins, who recently bought property on East Washington Road, not far from the farm site, with her partner, Raymond Gochey. “I want it to be respected. This is where we want to spend the rest of our life.”
“You’re changing what we are used to here,” said Patricia Harris, a resident of East Washington Road whose home is a mile from the gravel pit.
Scialabba said another agreement that FFD reached with Hinsdale sets out steps that residents can take if they have problems with the farm.
“We will obviously be watching everything,” Scialabba said. He said the board believes that the project not only meets all bylaw requirements, but will bring financial gains to the community. The company will pay a 3 percent tax to Hinsdale based on the wholesale value of its products.
Zachs has promised to use local contractors and create 20 year-round jobs.
HINSDALE — Neighborhood concerns about a proposed Hinsdale cannabis farm, including odors and use of water, will be sent to the Select Board —…
“It’s how we see it for the overall good of the town,” Scialabba said.
Robert Graves, the town administrator, told residents they will be able to continue to raise concerns.
“You have a mechanism to come back to us in Town Hall and the Select Board,” Graves said.
After Zachs briefed viewers on Zoom about the project, Scialabba read into the record a joint letter from concerned neighbors. It requested a hydrological study to confirm that there is an adequate water supply and a promise to pave at least 500 feet of Bullards Crossing Road.
The board didn’t agree to either of those requests, though Scialabba indicated a willingness to help out if dust raised by additional traffic on the road becomes a greater problem, as resident Morgan Davis thinks it will.
Representatives of FFD said they believe they can manage water use to avoid overtaxing underground resources — an issue explored in depth at the January hearing before the Planning Board.
Though the farm will be located in a former gravel pit near the Washington town line, Thursday’s session also drew residents from the Peru Road/Lake Ashmere area on the north side of town.
Before proposing the Bullards Crossing Road site, FFD had considered building off Peru Road.
“We were as scared as you were at the beginning,” said Keith Harrison, who lives near the earlier location. He said he came to view his concerns as unfounded and said Zachs and Will Kacheris, who manages the growing operation, proved to be trustworthy.
Harrison said he wasn’t simply interested in seeing the project moved from Peru Road, though he acknowledged that he was happy for the change.
“We will support you guys if you have any problems,” he told people who live near the site now approved. “We’re supporting our neighbors and we’re supporting the townspeople.”
Though it already has the go-ahead from Hinsdale, FFD will hold an outreach meeting at 6 p.m. March 3 at the project site at 120 Bullards Crossing Road. Zachs told viewers Thursday the meeting, required by the Cannabis Control Commission, will allow residents to learn more about the farm.
“It’s not a pot culture, it’s an agricultural operation,” said Kacheris, who supervises growing at a smaller cannabis venture run by the same company nearby on Bullards Crossing.