Retail marijuana marquis issue on West Stockbridge special town meeting warrant

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WEST STOCKBRIDGE — Will the marijuana industry be welcomed into town Monday night?

Voters at a special town meeting will decide whether to approve a marijuana overlay district that provides for the establishment of two marijuana retailers as well as weed agriculture or extend West Stockbridge's medical and recreational marijuana moratorium into June.

The meeting will take place 7 p.m. Monday at the Village School/Town Offices Gymnasium, 21 State Line Road. Attendance is free, and the meeting is open to the public.

In addition to potentially establishing town marijuana standards, voters will weigh in on a new ground-mounted solar system bylaw and a handful of financial items, the heftiest of which is a request for $12,000 to cover closing costs on a recently purchased parcel on Moscow Road.

"Marijuana is the big thing we're trying to regulate, the other items are like housekeeping," said Select Board member Peter Skorput.

"With marijuana, if it's not done right you just get a free-for-all," Skorput said of local regulation.

Marijuana

West Stockbridge's proposed marijuana bylaw puts a cap on retailers — allowing for one recreational and one medicinal marijuana retailer. A cap was not set on the number of marijuana growing establishments West Stockbridge could host.

Under the bylaw, any commercial marijuana establishment — recreational or medicinal — would need to secure a special permit from the Planning Board. And any cannabis business would have to fit West Stockbridge's look and character.

It would also create a Marijuana Regional Overlay District that outlines the specific areas where marijuana businesses can operate: mostly downtown locations zoned manufacturing, commercial and residential.

Growing marijuana would require the agriculture to be kept from public view. Outside growth would have to be at least 10 feet away from any property line and fenced-in. There would be no marijuana-related activity in the front yard and cultivation could not be visible from a public way. To cut down on light pollution, the light from any indoor growing operation would have to be kept from filtering out from the interior.

Special permits for the marijuana industry are for three years, initially, after which they can be renewed with the town for up to 10 years.

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If the town declines to approve the bylaw, voters would then have a chance to extend West Stockbridge's marijuana moratorium to June 1.

Other items

In addition to the marijuana question there are seven items on the meeting warrant dealing with solar power and town funds.

Voters will consider a proposed solar energy system bylaw that sets standards for small, medium and large ground-mounted solar systems. If approved large and medium solar energy systems would be allowed in commercial and manufacturing zones while small systems — those producing less than 10 kW DC — would be allowed in all districts.

Any ground-mounted solar system would need a special permit from the Planning Board. Roof-top solar energy systems could be installed in any zone without a special permit.

Lastly, the Finance Committee is recommending the following transactions to voters:

- $12,000 from Free Cash — an account with about $368,000 in it — for closing costs on the purchase from National Grid of a Moscow Road parcel that includes parking and public restrooms;

- $11,500 from the Sewer Operations fund for new and upgraded lighting at the wastewater treatment plant;

- $8,000 from Free Cash to buy a portable speed trailer for the West Stockbridge Police Department;

- $3,815 from Free Cash to supplement the purchase of a new police cruiser;

- Transfer $3,851 from Water Operations and $1,217 from Sewer Operations funds to the town general fund.

Kristin Palpini can be reached at kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com, @kristinpalpini, 413-629-4621.


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