For some in Cheshire, odor tops list of worries for pot farm plan

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CHESHIRE — Dozens of Cheshire residents are raising a big stink over an outdoor marijuana-cultivation farm they expect would ruin their bucolic way of life.

About 60 people from throughout the town packed the Cheshire Senior Center on Monday night, nearly all opposed to Stafford Green Inc. creating a 5-acre pot-growing farm on a 34-acre parcel between Stafford Hill and Sand roads.

The developers are seeking a special permit from the Planning Board, as well as approval from the town's Conservation Commission. The planners are expected to meet several times to discuss the project before rendering a decision, according to board Chairwoman Donna DeFino.

"An issue like Stafford Green is a complex issue," she said. "We don't slam anything through."

During the Planning Board's nearly two-hour public hearing, opponents objected most to the cannabis plants' potential pungent smell during the final weeks of maturation.

"Marijuana is not a favorable odor," said Marshall Maxwell. "After a few minutes, I would get a headache."

Several residents cited stories of residents in other states with legalized recreational marijuana dealing with a skunklike smell from pot plants grown outdoors.

"What's 80,000 plants going to smell like, 80,000 skunks?" asked Gary Trudeau, apparently exaggerating to make his point.

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

The developer's consultant, Ezra Parzybok, realizes that odor is a "contentious issue," as he lives in an area of Western Massachusetts where cannabis-cultivation facilities could be sited.

"I don't want the [marijuana] industry to negatively affect the community," he told the crowd. "If odor becomes a nuisance, there is technology ... to address the issue."

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

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The neighbors weren't buying that argument, or any aspect of the project.

"I don't want it in my backyard," said one Stafford Hill resident.

As for the rest of the project, Stafford Green would erect 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 offseason.

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

Several residents felt that the fence would make it seem as if they were living next to a prison.

"We would love not to put up the fence, but we have to," Parzybok said, citing a requirement from the state Cannabis Control Commission.

The developers say they already have filed a license application with the CCC. The state board will consider the license request if town planners grant the special permit.

Opponents are worried that Stafford Green's well could drain away water from wells of nearby residences. They also fear that the pot farm would affect the resale value of their homes.

Mike Larabee said the project would jeopardize his wife's home day care as well as negatively impact the health and security of the town.

"It's our income you're taking away," he said. "I think we're headed in the wrong direction [with this project]."

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


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