Midori’s Garden logo, via its website.

Public hearing on proposed cannabis cultivation facility continued

The Great Barrington Selectboard has decided to continue a public hearing on a special permit application for a cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility, Midori's Garden, to Oct. 30. Additionally, the board unanimously voted to hire an odor mitigation consultant in response to concerns about possible odors emitting from the facility.

Great Barrington — Due to various concerns about odor mitigation from residents and members of the Selectboard, the board has decided to continue a public hearing on a special permit application for a cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility to Monday, October 30.

Resident Mickey Maki, the co-owner of Gather Waters Farm, applied for the special permit. Both Maki and her husband, Joe Maki, co-own Gathered Waters Farm at 920 South Main Street, which is where she wants to start the cannabis business Midori’s Garden. The couple also lives on the property in a single-family home.

According to its website, Midori’s Garden would be located on a half acre of land on the Gathered Waters property and, as proposed, would be a Tier 1 cannabis cultivation and processing company. According to the state’s Cannabis Control Commission’s website, Tier 1 is a license for up to 5,000 square feet of cultivation, while a Tier 2 license is for 5,001 to 10,000 square feet of cultivation.

At the September 11 meeting, however, Mickey Maki said that “it will be a Tier One, but ultimately no larger than Tier Two outdoor cultivation.” She explained, “We will have a half acre of our 17 acres that we would like to fence in so we can cultivate cannabis in the outdoors. There will be only one growing season. There are no permanent structures required [for the facility]. We’ve already been to the other town committees including the Planning Board, the Conservation Committee, and the Board of Health to make sure that we are in line with the requirements.”

Maki explained that she did not want to use an indoor facility because, since cannabis is a tropical plant, growing it year-round would use an immense amount of electricity. “We’re going outdoors to minimize our electricity usage,” she said. “We have a solar array that’s currently being installed and should be finished by [Wednesday, September 13].”

Maki said that, since she will be the full owner of Midori’s Garden as a Black woman, she will be taking part in the state’s Social Equity Program for cannabis business owners.

She said that she had heard concerns from residents at a previous community meeting about the potential odors from the cannabis cultivation site. “The field [to be used for cultivation] is very small,” Maki said. “We have tree coverage on both sides of our property, and we have our house in front. There are natural barriers that will prevent the odor from getting out. Furthermore, because of the way the plant grows, the odor comes during flower [season], which usually happens at this time of year in September. So when you harvest it—not usually later than the first or second week of October. There are two factors for the smell [of the cultivation site] to be too volatile and for it to spread. It needs to be a hot summer day where the heat and sun [get to the site] and [the wind] needs to blow it in a direction. I think [the site] is very unlikely that it will be a nuisance to anyone around us.” Despite this, town officials and residents had concerns about the potential odors that would be emitted from the cultivation facility.

John Grogan, chairman of the town’s Housing Authority, said that the Housing Authority’s Brookside Manor, which includes 31 senior housing units, is an abutter to the proposed marijuana cultivation property. “I’m not speaking for or against [the project],” Grogan said. “Regarding the odor mitigation strategy that was outlined, it seems pretty good. I just wanted to be sure that our residents have some recourse [if the mitigation strategy] doesn’t work. It would be nice to have a plan in place. It should be possible to put some strings attached [to the special permit] where there is an alternative odor mitigation plan if the permit is approved.”

Resident Dominic Lydon, who owns property abutting the proposed cultivation facility, said that he is against the proposed facility. “I have little kids, and there is a pediatric development center next door,” Lydon said. “There’s a lot of new children at the new apartment buildings. Growing cannabis isn’t a neighborly activity. It’s not particularly something that the community involves themselves in.”

One of the abutting properties to the proposed facility is Windrush Commons, an affordable housing complex co-developed by the Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire (CDCSB), located at 910 Main Street. CDCSB Executive Director Carol Bosco Baumann told the Selectboard that she has concerns about the proposed facility. “So far, the Makis have been good neighbors, and we have every reason [to believe] that they will continue to do so going forward,” Baumann said. “As a nonprofit with a dual housing and economic development mission, we’re interested in this small business being successful. It represents so many things that we hope to support. But we are not 100 percent confident in their proposed odor control plan. We would like to see a clear and actionable odor mitigation plan in the event of the failure of the primary plan. We would support this business with that secondary, achievable odor control plan in place.”

Eventually, Selectboard Chair Stephen Bannon suggested that the town hire an odor mitigation consultant, at Maki’s expense, to review the odor mitigation plan and to make sure the odor would be mitigated as much as possible. A motion to hire the consultant was made by Vice Chair Leigh Davis, which the board ultimately passed by an unanimous vote.

“I think this is something we have to look into and do research on when it comes to location,” Selectboard member Eric Gabriel said. “The [proposed location] is in a dense area, but we have new housing and existing housing [abutting the property]. We owe it to the neighbors to start our research.”

“I would like to see this project go through, but I just want to make sure everything is done correctly,” Selectboard member Garfied Reed said. “We have no room for people to point fingers and to have second guessing. We have some things down the road that we can’t control. We want to make sure everything is under control and taken care of. I’d love to see another minority-owned business in town. This sort of puts me in the middle because I am a Black man, and I am also on this board. I need to make sure that I am making a sound decision. We need to make sure that we are crossing all the T’s and dotting the I’s.”

Click here for the special permit application as presented to the town.