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Indoor cannabis farm OK’d in split Becket vote

TetraHydra AgTek greenhouse diagram

In a Jan. 25 filing, TetraHydra Agtek LLC provided this diagram of its proposed 31,310-square-foot greenhouse off Quarry Road in Becket.

BECKET — A large-scale Becket cannabis farm proposed more than a year ago — then vigorously tracked and opposed by neighbors — won a long-sought special permit Thursday.

After hours of earlier hearings attended online by scores of residents, the town’s Planning Board voted 4-1 to allow a Connecticut company, TetraHydra AgTek LLC, to create an indoor marijuana growing facility on Quarry Road, subject to conditions the panel debated at length.

The project needs other approvals, including from the Cannabis Control Commission and from the town Conservation Commission and Board of Health.

“While people may not all agree with a decision that we’ve arrived at tonight, it’s the decision the board has made,” said Robert T. Ronzio, the Planning Board’s chairman.

“I don’t remember any time in recent history where we have basically not rendered a unanimous decision,” he said. “It’s important for people in the town to understand that, you know, this is kind of a thankless job at times.”

Ronzio said he voted to approve the project in part because town residents several times voted in favor of legalizing cannabis and backed zoning bylaws allowing cultivation.

The applicant needed to secure four votes.

The farm will erect a 31,310-square-foot greenhouse off Bonny Rigg Hill Road, about a half mile above the Massachusetts Turnpike.

“I am humbled and I thank you sincerely,” Michael Goodenough, a project partner, told the board after the vote, then addressed opponents. “I look forward to providing you with the first tours of the building to kibosh any of the concerns,” he said.

The decision is a victory as well for the couple that owns the land to be used, Jerome J. Schwartzbach and Adrienne K. Metcalf. Both had assailed opposition to the farm and said they had a right to draw income from a lease of their land. “Where’s our quality of life in this mix?” Metcalf asked at the end of a two-hour hearing in February.

The approval comes with conditions designed to address concerns about the farm’s impact on the neighborhood, including steps to monitor odor, trees to screen the property and police patrols in summer, among other requirements.

Once the decision is filed with the town clerk, opponents have 20 days to appeal it to the Berkshire Superior Court, Ronzio said.

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Member Ann Krawet, the board’s clerk, opposed the project, saying she found it to be out of character with the area and not in the neighborhood’s best interests.

“If we go forward, we will be opposing what is written in our own bylaws on protecting historic resources,” Krawet said before the vote. “We would be creating a conflict.”

She said the historic quarry site, now managed by the Trustees of Reservations, “is extremely close to the front of this big building with its ugly fence and not in the character of the neighborhood.”

Member James P. Levy said he voted to approve the special permit in part because the farm will bring jobs to Becket and pay taxes to the town.

The TetraHydra Agtek project, which eliminated outdoor growing in the face of local opposition, was unveiled in January 2021, then withdrawn and resubmitted in June. Consideration was delayed again as the applicant negotiated a host community agreement with the Select Board.

In hearings over the winter, opponents raised questions about the farm’s use of water and the prospect of unwanted odors. Their attorney, Mitchell I. Greenwald, on Feb. 9 challenged whether proper notice had been provided.

The special permit was opposed by the leaders of two local homeowners’ groups.

“We don’t believe that we have the protections necessary in order to deal with worst case situations as they arise once this begins,” David Edell, who chairs Skyline Ridge Property Owners Association, told the board in February.

A neighbor on Quarry Road, Beverly Lambert, said she believes the project is a mismatch for the area. “The proposal … is not in keeping with the character of our neighborhood,” she said.

Tess Lundberg, a year-round resident on Valley View Road, expressed concern about how the farm’s use of water would affect neighborhood wells and the aquifer.

Goodenough, of Tetrahydra, said at an earlier meeting that the farm would not draw more groundwater than 4.5 households.

The application had been taken up at a contentious Planning Board meeting in August. The review was delayed when it was discovered that the applicant needed to have a host community agreement in hand.

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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