Marijuana Farm: an opportunity or liability?
Last week, local resident and businessman Fran Colantonio approached Selectmen with a proposal to construct an indoor, fully secure 50,000 square foot marijuana farm on 200 acres in Hopping Brook Industrial Park.
Last week, local resident and businessman Fran Colantonio approached Selectmen with a proposal to construct an indoor, fully secure 50,000 square foot marijuana farm on 200 acres in Hopping Brook Industrial Park. In order to proceed, the developers must get a letter of “support” or “non-opposition” from the Selectmen. If the Selectmen take no action, the project is stopped. If the proposal is allowed to go forward, the developer must then go through all required local permitting processes with the Planning Board, Building Department, etc. in order to build here.
Is this a dispensary for medical marijuana?
No, this is a farming operation exclusively to grow the product.
The facility will lease growing space to a number of different growers. Each of the growers must have a contract with a state-approved dispensary and the developers must provide that information on application. The Department of Public Health website lists over 150 sites being considered as Registered Marijuana Dispensaries across the state suggesting a high need for farms. The farms will need to go somewhere.
Amesbury, Brockton and Franklin, Massachusetts have marijuana farms now. Plymouth, Holbrook and Lowell have filed letters of intent to build farms in their communities.
It should be noted that the statement that the BOS will sign refers to a Registered Marijuana Dispensary because cultivation sites must be partnered with actual dispensaries. But the process for farms is separate and distinct.
Will Town water be used to irrigate the crops?
No. The developers will install a well that descends below the aquifer that the town draws from. The facility will use Town water for the fire suppression system and for domestic purposes like bathrooms.
What are the benefits to the Town?
The building would generate annual property taxes of about $58,000 - $96,000 depending on actual assessed value at time built. Over and above that, the Town will negotiate a host agreement with the developers, which will provide an annual payment based on either a flat fee or a percentage of the gross income. Colantonio estimated that the annual payment could be $500,000 or more. Those funds would go into the General Fund each year.
What are the liabilities for the Town?
The costs to the town would be minimal since there would be no children added to the schools.
Security is probably the biggest concern. Colantonio visited a farm in Colorado and reports that the security system was very sophisticated – almost like a military installation. Developers expect to have 10 people working at the farm and all employees and growers must submit to an extensive background check. There will be surveillance cameras and other technology to secure the facility. The Town of Franklin reports that their farm has had no issues at all.
Holliston Fire Chief Cassidy says, “Given the location (removed from the residential areas of town) and the amount of regulation to which it would be subjected (both state and federal), I would not have any opposition to this project from a fire safety standpoint.”
And Police Chief Moore says, “Professionally I am "confident" that the people behind the initiative will comply with all state and DPH regulations due to this being a new and highly watched industry where there should be no allowable deviation from the parameters set by the State/DPH.” He did not anticipate any extraordinary involvement with the HPD.
Town’s reputation would be hurt. The comments in Holliston Reporter last week suggest concern about whether or not a marijuana farm will make the town less desirable.
Message to kids. Some might suggest that by sanctioning this project, we are sending the wrong message to kids – though this marijuana is for a legal, medicinal purpose. One HR comment last week was, “We want medical marijuana to help our loved ones, BUT DON'T GROW IT HERE? That's hypocritical.”
You have your own opinions. Now you have the chance to share them. Click here to take a survey on the subject of the proposed marijuana farm.