Great Barrington –In a donnybrook 4-hour session Thursday (August 22) that featured a site visit as well as an unusual moment when an associate member of the Planning Board recused himself in order to speak against a special permit that the board ultimately endorsed, town planners sent on to the Selectboard their recommendation of the Fulcrum Enterprises proposed marijuana cultivation and processing complex on 5.78 acres along Van Deusenville Road in Housatonic.
It was a packed house in the Town Hall meeting room for the Planning Board’s deliberations.
The board did not directly address the social issues associated with the marijuana production but rather confined its consideration to whether the project, with 15 greenhouses and a cannabis manufacturing “extraction lab,” complied with the town’s zoning requirements and state regulations governing marijuana production. The site is located on east side of Van Deusenville Road and the Housatonic Railroad tracks in an area zoned industrial.
The Planning Board determined that the Fulcrum project met the town’s zoning bylaws, and by a unanimous 5-0 vote referred the application for a special permit to the Selectboard that will consider the matter at its September 9 meeting.
According to town planner Chris Rembold the Fulcrum project must also be reviewed by the Board of Health and Conservation Commission.
“We can’t make a judgment on the social or economic merits of this project,” noted Planning Board Vice Chair Malcolm Fick. “That’s the job of the Selectboard. But the application does meet the requirements of our zoning bylaws.”
Still, the project also encountered passionate opposition from several Housatonic residents.
Michelle Loubert declared she was “very angry and afraid” about the marijuana production facility, arguing that her “well-being is being put at risk. This is not what town leadership should support.”
Former Selectman Doug Stephenson also spoke out about the Fulcrum project.
“I didn’t hear any talk about the residents who live directly across the street,” he said. “We need to protect their interests. No one is talking about them.”
As the board took up the Fulcrum project Planning Board associate member Garfield Reed recused himself, and then went to the microphone during the citizen speak session to express his views.
“I am vehemently opposed to this permit,” he told his board and the audience. “This is forcing an issue on the town. This shows disrespect for Housatonic. Let’s look at it morally. What is Great Barrington doing with all the marijuana revenue? Why do we need five pot shops?”