Principals in potential pot business at Otis Poultry Farm 'want to be good neighbors'

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OTIS — Dozens of residents piled into Town Hall on Saturday to learn about a potential marijuana-cultivation and retail establishment looking to move into the 115-year-old Otis Poultry Farm.

A group of men who make up Turning Leaf Centers of Otis is purchasing the 23.7-acre property on North Main Road from lifelong resident Andy Pyenson. The owners intend on continuing Pyenson's country store — it's known for its chicken pot pies and also has a liquor license — while also having a separate retail establishment for medical and recreational marijuana. A cultivation and processing facility also would be on the property.

"What we have here, first of all, is a group of people who want to be good neighbors to you," said Tom Gacewicz, one of the principal owners, as he introduced himself. "I've been looking at this property now for 10 years. I feel most comfortable today because my dreams are going to be met."

Gacewicz, who comes from a career in the public health sector, emphasized that the project's primary goal is to create quality marijuana to help those with medical needs. He became interested in the business after losing two family members to cancer.

The recreational side of the business, he said, is to meet a demand in Massachusetts, and to serve as a revenue stream for the business and town.

With Gacewicz were health care professionals, an expert in security, and an expert in hydroponics and odor reduction, who spoke about any potential issues that might arise through the business and how to mitigate them. "Community" and "health" were words that each of the men repeated throughout their presentations.

The crowd was told that the buildings, which would be in the style of traditional red and white barns, are expected to take up less than a half-acre, leaving the remaining partially wooded site as green space. The company, Gacewicz said, hopes to be a monetary contributor for community events, gatherings and fundraisers.

The property's popular and quirky red chicken coops, which long have served as a landmark along Route 8, would remain, the men said.

John Saccenti, who oversees security for the group, said the site would include 24-hour alarms and lighting to allow for the use of surveillance cameras, and said the light that's needed isn't expected to pollute the area.

"We want to have redundant systems so no matter what happens, the building will not be compromised," he said.

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The company is prepared to employ triple security checks to limit the use of fake IDs.

Currently, the group expects to employ 18 to 21 people, many of them Otis residents, who would undergo background checks and have to use retinal or thumbprint scanners while at work.

Jonathan Black, who owns a hydroponics company, agreed with members of the crowd that marijuana produces a smell when the flower first blooms, but that scent would be mitigated through the use of carbon filters in the site's indoor growing facility.

Fiberglass wall paneling, and other methods, would ensure that no noise escapes the building, and any runoff of nutrients would be captured in tanks and recycled, he said.

Rona Knight, a member of the town's Planning Board, spoke of the extensive research she has done on the industry and complimented the lengths that the company is proposing to go to eliminate odor.

"I'm happy to hear you're going with carbon filters and scrubbers," she said, before suggesting that they also consider surrounding the property with essential oils, as she learned is done at a facility in San Diego.

Residents and town officials asked dozens of questions about odor, possible educational programming, and how much revenue the town would see.

Turning Leaf would give the town the maximum 3 percent of sales tax for the first five years. The company is completing a host community agreement with the town.

After the agreement is finalized, the company will have to meet all local zoning and permitting requirements before applying for a license from the state, Reiner said. After that, construction would begin.

"We're probably a year and a half until we're up and running," Reiner said. "That's my best guess."

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.


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