WEST STOCKBRIDGE — A chicken and cattle farm could soon add the cultivation of cannabis to its arsenal of agriculture.
Jon Piasecki, owner of Wise Acre Farm in West Stockbridge, has been granted a special permit by the town’s Planning Board for the use of a 4,200 square-foot outdoor marijuana grow operation.
Piasecki’s farm, located at 276 Great Barrington Road, sits on a 51-acre parcel of land along Route 41. Currently, nine acres are used for raising various livestock, including goats, lambs, donkeys and bees, according to Piasecki’s lawyer, Lori Robbins.
Robbins, of the Lenox-based Heller & Robbins law firm, represented Piasecki at the Monday, Feb. 17 Planning Board meeting and public hearing for the special permit application.
Piasecki was present for the meeting, but was unable to speak directly to the planning board due to the fact he is a former five-year member of the board.
Piasecki had initially approached the Select Board last January and presented his plan, via Robbins, of his proposed marijuana grow. Speaking on Piasecki’s behalf, Robbins said that the state Ethics Commission had been contacted due to a potential conflict of interest.
It was noted that if Piasecki were to apply for a special permit from the town, he would have to resign from his seat on the planning board. Last summer, Piasecki resigned from his seat, with the sole intent of starting an “artisanal marijuana” grow on his existing farm property.
Piasecki says he plans to sell the wholesale marijuana he produces from his Tier 1 cultivation site to area dispensaries for legal sale in the commonwealth. Under the Cannabis Control Commission’s (CCC) guidelines, Tier 1 cultivation operations are the smallest regulated size for cannabis grows, which are limited to 5,000 square feet in size.
John and Judy Peyron, abutters to Piasecki’s farm, said they were in support of the farm’s newest venture, but had concerns about possible odor and how it could affect the upcoming sale of their neighboring property. In attendance at the public hearing, John Peyron laid out the scenario where a potential buyer turns down the purchase of his newly renovated property due to the smell of marijuana plants.
“We’re in a position where we want to sell our house,” John Peyron said. “I don’t want to have to be the neighborhood police on this, I just want to be able to sell my house.
Although Robbins said that the odor of the flowering plants would not reach the Peyron’s property, an organic solution was proposed as part of Piasecki’s odor mitigation plan.
Robbins said Piasecki would plant clematis all around his property as “fragrant flowers” during the expected flowering months of his outdoor marijuana crop from September through mid-November.
Robbins added that the 4,200 square-foot space for the cannabis plants would be in a completely fenced area and would not be visible from Route 41.
Dana Bixbee, chairperson of the planning board, clarified that special permit recipients would have to return to the board after three years to renew their special permit status. Abutters would also have the opportunity to update the planning board on their status with the special permit holder, she said.
Abutters first became aware of the details to Piasecki’s proposed plans at a Feb. 7, 2019 community outreach meeting, as required by the CCC. A host community agreement was then authorized by the Select Board on March 13, 2019, according to Robbins.
Bixbee also said the Planning Board had received a hand-written note and an email from separate abutters speaking in support of Piasecki’s proposed outdoor marijuana grow.
Following the public hearing, the Planning Board unanimously voted 5-0 in favor of granting the special permit application. The special permit comes with the conditions that the landscape plantings and screenings shall be implemented as shown on the original plans for the cultivation site, submitted on June 25, 2019.