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North Adams mayor fights OK of outdoor cannabis cultivation on Ashland Street

537 Ashland Street in North Adams (copy) (copy)

The businesses located at 537 Ashland St. in North Adams, where a cannabis cultivation grower wants to open.

NORTH ADAMS — A group of neighbors raising objections to a proposed outdoor cannabis business on Ashland Street have the support of the city’s mayor.

Last week, the Planning Board approved New England Alchemy LLC’s application for a special permit to manufacture and grow cannabis outdoors at 537 Ashland St., if the company submits improved parking plans that the city approves. The company also still needs approval from the Conservation Commission.

But Mayor Jennifer Macksey told the City Council this week she has concerns and will challenge the Planning Board’s approval.

“I don’t like what happened the other night at the Planning Board meeting,” she said. “I will not shortchange the people on this petition, the neighborhoods, and I hope you won’t either.”

“With this, please know that the present situation is in the hands of our legal counsel,” Macksey said. “And we will be challenging the approval of the application as it was presented.”

She later added, “I’m certainly not against cannabis, but what I’m against is deteriorating our neighborhoods.”

After reviewing the company’s application, Macksey said she had concerns about parking, security, conservation, and a reference to an incorrect map and lot number. “But most importantly, the lack of public participation in this meeting, because it was held on Zoom rather than in person,” she said.

Macksey said her administration asked the Planning Board to postpone making a decision.

Calls to both the company’s owner and a lawyer representing it were not returned.

Last year, the company held a community outreach meeting, which is required by the Cannabis Control Commission. A seven-minute meeting in October posted on YouTube shows no one from the public attended. The Cannabis Control Commission requires companies to notify residents within 300 feet of the property line about the meeting.

More than 30 residents on Davenport, Church and Corinth streets and Highland Avenue — nearby but not abutting the site — signed on to a petition opposing the project.

“We suspect that this business will negatively impact our property values and our quality of life, especially during the growing season,” Diane Parsons, a resident of Highland Avenue told the Council Tuesday night, reading from the petition.

Discussion of possible odors came up at the Planning Board meeting last week. The company plans to use plants like lavender to mitigate the smell, its application says.

“It’s impossible to say there will be no smell ever,” owner Rustin Kluge told the Planning Board.

The site is in an area zoned for industry, he added. Brian Miksic, the board’s chair, underscored that point last week. “This is specifically zoned to be able to handle things like this,” he said.

The business proposes to put an 8-foot-high fence around the property “to ensure visibility of plants is eliminated from all reasonable vantage points,” the company wrote in its application.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6272.

Reporter

Greta Jochem, a Report for America Corps member, joined the Eagle in 2021. Previously, she was a reporter at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. She is also a member of the investigations team.

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