Published: 6/3/2022 2:30:19 PM
Modified: 6/3/2022 2:28:20 PM
HATFIELD — A marijuana cultivator will be allowed to move forward with a project on 3.3 acres at 140A North Hatfield Road.
The Planning Board Wednesday voted 4-0 to issue a special permit and approve site plans for the project known as Straits Road LLC, which has faced significant opposition from those living in the neighborhood.
Understanding the concerns from nearby residents, planners set a condition for lead applicant Bernie Smiarowski, whose family will own the property and will oversee the operation, that a naturally planted landscape screening, supplemental to a fence, be installed to shield the plants from view of passers-by.
Still, board member Robert Wagner said the vegetative screening will not address the potential smell from plants growing outdoors and in greenhouses.
“Odor is an issue, there’s no doubt about that,” Wagner said.
Wagner noted that any future expansion of marijuana cultivation on the site will depend on not having any significant community impacts.
Plans are for the 38-acre property to eventually become a campus of marijuana growers. The arrangement in the host community agreement provides the town a 3% impact fee, based on the company’s gross sales.
Only board member Michael Pasczek, who was participating remotely, indicated he would have voted against the project, though he was unable to register his vote at the time the vote took place.
Like at previous meetings, several spoke against the project. Devon Elliott of 121 North Hatfield said marijuana being grown close to her home will not aid in the quality of life, while Greg Omasta of 123 North Hatfield Road wondered if he would be able to use his yard.
“My question is should I sit out there in the middle of summer with my grandchildren when the odor of marijuana is coming into my backyard,” Omasta said.
Board member Jimmy Tarr said Smiarowski and his team should understand that the approval is not carte blanche for the remainder of the site, and that future growers will be reviewed individually. If there are problems encountered with the initial project, planners may not be so favorable in the future.
“We have approved one small project in the least challenging piece of this property,” Tarr said.
Tarr said legal counsel advised the Planning Board that it could be sued if the project was turned down.
Board member David Leon Bell Jr., who joined the board following last month’s town election, said he wanted to find a way, through town zoning, to vote against the project, but that it appeared to be in compliance. Bell asked if the approval could be part of a year-long test, but was advised by Wagner that this would likely not be appropriate.
Scott Merzbach can be reached at email@example.com.