Cheshire Planning Board to hear proposal for outdoor pot farm

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CHESHIRE — A controversial outdoor marijuana farm that some residents have fretted about for months finally will get public scrutiny next week before the Cheshire Planning Board.

Stafford Green Inc. formally will seek a special permit Monday for a 5-acre, fenced-in, seasonal cannabis cultivation facility on a 34-acre parcel between Stafford Hill and Sand Mill roads.

Town planners are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. at the Cheshire Senior/Community Center, 116 School St. Stafford Green is on the agenda for 7:15 p.m.

The developers, Frank Maguire Jr. from Adams and his father, Frank Maguire Sr., first proposed the project in early January, when they sought, and received, from the Select Board a host community agreement. The agreement is the first of several steps on the local level before the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission can consider issuing Stafford Green a state license to operate. The developers say they already have filed a license application with the CCC.

Several residents of the Stafford Hill neighborhood have been so concerned about the project that they tried and failed at the annual town meeting in June to enact a general town bylaw banning outdoor marijuana farming. Town officials said an amendment to the town's zoning bylaws would best regulate outdoor marijuana projects.

Bylaw proponents feared that outdoor cannabis cultivation would create an unacceptable odor from the plants, and negatively impact the overall public heath and safety of the town.

The developers say they don't anticipate using odor-control measures, believing that their facility would be isolated enough from neighbors.

"The amount of natural buffer should be enough to mitigate the odor," Frank Maguire Jr. told The Eagle. "If there are any issues, we'll work with the town and neighbors to address them."

The Maguires' proposal, citing experts in the cannabis field, says the pot plants are most pungent in the final four to five weeks of maturity — an odor common to other flora.

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"There are no intoxicants in cannabis odor, so the fear of odor is generally overblown. Lavender, mint and geraniums produce the same odor compounds and are far healthier than an average dairy farm," project consultant Ezra Parzybok said in an Eagle interview.

Pot farm layout

Stafford Green plans to grow 3,500 cannabis plants in 500 above-ground organic soil beds in a 40,000-square-foot area, according to the proposal.

The developers also want to erect a 42-foot-by-60-foot no-glass greenhouse used for drying, preparing and storing the harvest and office space. Portable toilets would be used for employees. There would be no storage of cultivated marijuana during the off-season.

The growing and cultivation typically would occur from June through October, according to Frank Maguire Jr. Any organic waste from growing the cannabis would be composted.

A water tank drawing water from an independent well would be used to irrigate the marijuana plants.

The entire project, set back nearly 800 feet from Stafford Hill Road, would be surrounded by a 130,000-square-foot fence.

The younger Maguire expects to employ five to eight people in the first year and has no desire to enter the retail side of recreational marijuana.

"I'm not interested in selling things, I'd rather grow things," he told The Eagle.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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