DEP agrees that Great Barrington Conservation Commission doesn't have authority for pot farm permit

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GREAT BARRINGTON — State officials agree that the town's environmental oversight board does not have authority to weigh in on a special permit for a proposed cannabis farm at an industrial site in Housatonic.

An official from the state Department of Environmental Protection agreed that the Conservation Commission does not have any influence in Fulcrum Enterprises LLC's special permit application, said Jeffrey Cohen, chairman of the Commission. This is because the property off Van Deusenville Road does not have the resources that the Commission oversees, including wetlands, flood plains or intermittent streams.

Cohen said that Mark Stinson of the DEP also told him that the commission does not have any jurisdiction with regard to the company's use of water for irrigation provided by Housatonic Water Works.

What would give the commission enforcement powers, however, is if chemicals used to control odor from flowering cannabis plants were to harm such areas.

"We would have to go correct that," Cohen said.

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Fulcrum plans to build 15 greenhouses for 80,000 square feet of raised beds and add an automated system to each that mists an odor neutralizer into the exhaust when the fans kick on. The odor control company hired by Fulcrum says its product is safe according to federal standards, but a group of residents who live nearby are not convinced.

Cohen offered to call the DEP after the plan's opponents attended the commission's Aug. 28 meeting and critically questioned members as to their mission, and why they do not have to weigh in on the permit.

Cohen said he is always open to criticism and comments from residents, and to taking extra steps to reassure them.

"I thought that the issues they raised as pertain to the quality of life were important enough for us to take notice of it and call [DEP] and ask about it," he said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshrieeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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