Cheshire pot farm plan snuffed out for now

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CHESHIRE — The developer of a controversial outdoor marijuana farm has tabled the project amid vehement opposition from neighbors and the Cheshire Planning Board's concern over impacting the neighborhood.

Stafford Green recently withdrew its special permit application for an open-air cultivation facility. The last-minute pullback came before the board was to vote on the permit, according to the developer and town officials at the Nov. 25 meeting.

Project consultant Ezra Parzybok said the current proposal would have likely violated municipal zoning by encroaching on a nearby residence.

"We withdrew the application when the Planning Board announced that play equipment and a chicken coop in the backyard of an abutter's home constituted structures bringing the proposal within a 500-foot buffer zone," Parzybok stated in an email to The Eagle.

Parzybok added his client feared, if approved, opponents would have challenged the project in the courts. The Planning Board has been unavailable for comment on the withdrawal.

The residents' concerns of odor and well-water use dominated the planners' ongoing review of the project since the process began in late August.

Dozens of residents have steadfastly remained opposed to Stafford Green creating a 5-acre pot-growing facility on a 34-acre parcel between Stafford Hill and Sand roads.

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The developers were seeking permission to grow the recreational marijuana in above-ground organic soil beds in a 40,000-square-foot area that makes up less than 1 acre. The growing and cultivation typically would occur from June through October, according to Stafford Green President Frank Maguire Jr. Any organic waste from growing the cannabis would be composted.

Maguire is weighing his options: reconfigure the marijuana farm layout to avoid the buffer zone or grow hemp. Parzybok says cultivating hemp is a by-right use and avoids Planning Bard approval. Parzybok noted Maguire could try and grow both crops.

Hemp can have similar odor issues, but the crop is considered a by-right farm use in Massachusetts, Parzybok has told residents and town planners during the permit hearings.

"The [Stafford Hill] site would accommodate some 22,000 hemp plants — a tenfold increase to the proposed marijuana farm, including water usage," Parzybok told The Eagle.

As for Stafford Green's marijuana farm, it also featured a 42-by-60-foot, no-glass greenhouse used for drying, preparing and storing the harvest, and office space. Portable toilets would be used for five to eight employees. There would be no storage of cultivated marijuana during the off-season.

A water tank would store the well water used, if necessary, to irrigate the plants.

The entire project at 80 Stafford Hill Road, monitored by 12 security cameras, would be set back nearly 800 feet from the road and surrounded by a 130,000-square-foot, chain-link fence topped with sharp wire.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com


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