To the Editor:
There has been a lot of talk about a turf war between the Great Barrington Planning Board and the Selectboard over the marijuana bylaw that will come before Town Meeting on Monday, May 7th. Those headlines miss the point. There is no turf war, just an honest disagreement between two boards about where we as a town will allow commercial cultivation of marijuana.
The Selectboard would like to be able to examine each proposed cultivation site on a case-by-case basis, giving neighbors a chance to weigh in on whether they want to live next door to a 10,000 square foot building with fences, security lights and cameras. The Planning Board has proposed a zoning bylaw that allows it by right in some zones, even in some residential neighborhoods. The Selectboard wants to amend that bylaw to ensure public input.
The truth is, nobody knows what marijuana cultivation will look like or what issues may arise from this activity that was, until very recently, illegal. We do know that it won’t look like farming. State regulations rightly insist on high security measures that by necessity will be intrusive. Most growing will be indoors in windowless buildings.
Is our amendment too restrictive on what, like it or not, is now a legal activity? Maybe. It’s possible this extra step of holding a public hearing and deciding on a case-by-case basis will be proven unnecessary. If so, we can get less restrictive in the future. But for now, let’s err on the side of caution.
Both boards agree that we need to pass a local zoning bylaw. If we don’t, we default to the state’s zoning regulations crafted in Boston. The disagreement is over how much local oversight to give this new and untested industry.
Please come to the May 7th Town Meeting and support the Selectboard’s amendment to the proposed marijuana zoning bylaw.
The writers are members of the Great Barrington Selectboard. These comments represent their own opinions; they are not speaking on behalf of the Selectboard.