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Marijuana Farm: an opportunity or liability?

by Mary Greendale
November 9, 2015

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.

Got questions?

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.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DY79CFG

 

 

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Comments (40)

Thank you Hungry Hippo. There actually is 200 acres in Hopping Brook Park that has no buildings on it and is currently assessed by the town for land only. You can see the listing for the property on the Town of Holliston's Assessors website. If you are interested, look at the tab about the preliminary values for the 2016 property assessments. It is referred to as 0 Hopping Brook. I also calculated some of the assessments on the other commercial buildings and property in Hopping Brook Park. For example, 150 Hopping Brook is on 9.059 acres of land with a building and it is assessed at $3,327,800. This particular parcel would generate roughly $64,492 in property taxes at Holliston's $19.38 tax rate. 220 Hopping Brook is on 11.47 acres of land with a building and it is assessed at $4,110,200. This particular parcel would generate roughly $79,655 in property taxes at Holliston's 19.38 rate. These two parcels total a little over 20 acres, yet they are generating $144,147 in tax revenue from the town. I would think that 200 acres should generate more than 56,000 - 98,000 in property tax revenue. Also, marijuana dispensaries must be organized as non-profits in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The same holds true for marijuana farms. I believe non-profits may be exempt from property taxes. It is possible there may be no property tax revenue from this proposal.

- Ann Chipman | 11/17/15 11:38 PM

Ann - the reason you pay $$$ for your half acre is that it is assessed by the town... perhaps it has an improvement on it, like a house? I believe the numbers on this farm are misleading, as it is an indoor crop, and the building was described as a 50,000 sq ft warehouse. The 200 acre number may be the total size of Hopping Brook Industrial Park. I doubt that today anyone has 200 acres here in town, not even the land near the Mayor's Plantation on Highland Street.

- Hungry Hippo | 11/17/15 3:39 PM

Now in town we have a new boutique where you can get your wild west on. It sells pistol earrings, rings and necklaces. Giddy up for the ride folks!

- crazy | 11/17/15 12:06 PM

I am interested in why the amount of property taxes the town would receive as stated in the article above is so low (58,000 - 96,000). It is my understanding from the article that we are talking about a 200 acre site. I own under half an acre and I pay just about $10,000 per year. Something is not adding up? Does anyone have an explanation?

- ANN CHIPMAN | 11/16/15 9:25 AM

With all due respect for the person putting the survey out there and the intent, this is why tools like survey monkey should not be in the hands of people who don't have a background in social science. The header of the article is biased and the answer choices for the survey are not only confusing, contain double negatives, but they are also not mutually exclusive or exhaustive. Please - Selectmen - do not use the results of this for ANY purpose. All information is not data.

- the new survey is no better | 11/15/15 9:11 PM

I think it would be a good venture for the Town, it might make my taxes go down....A.J.D.

- A.J.D...... | 11/15/15 7:24 AM

I am against this, but I have a comment on revenue. Why every time we get new revenue people think it should go to the schools? Our Senior Center is a disgrace and falling apart. Don't our Seniors deserve a nice facility, just as much as the schools? After all, seniors also pay taxes to keep the schools up to date and continue to do so long after their children are out of the school system. Most of the towns around us have built new Senior Centers - why can't we? Free all day kindergarten sounds good, but it isn't free folks, we all pay for it while I am not sure how many students benefit from it each year. Just saying!

- Conerned resident | 11/15/15 3:38 AM

Food for thought..Holliston has a gun shop and a vape store downtown. Needham has a prison and Brookline has an adult novelty store...and yet these towns are still viewed as desirable places to live and raise a family. Property values do not appear to be suffering either.

- Cynthia | 11/13/15 11:25 AM

Farming locally will help us with local jobs. I support local business that helps our economy.

- DrVasu Brown, MD, CAS, SAP, WCC | 11/13/15 8:54 AM

Resident discount?

- Mary Jane | 11/12/15 6:08 PM

It seems the survey has been closed? Since many people mentioned problems with the survey, I hope that when/if these results are presented to the town there will be some mention to reflect that point, rather than ignoring what many here see as a problem in how the questions were asked. Back when we had the downtown visioning survey, there were a number of issues with how it was designed. I'm sure whatever data was collected at that time was poor quality and not very meaningful. This isn't to criticize the person who put in the work to do them (which I'm sure they did to the best of their ability), only to say that if surveys are done poorly they can be very misleading and result in bad decision making based on what seems like valid evidence. In the future maybe the town should recruit people experienced in survey research when it wants to approach questions this way.

- Someone who designs surveys for a living | 11/12/15 4:57 PM

Cripes people!

- Irv | 11/12/15 2:09 PM

I live near Hopping Brook, I have 3 very young kids, and I am 100% in suport of this. I would vote for it if put to a vote. I agree with the other parents on here who want free full day kindergarten in town. This could help fund it. Holliston desperately needs to add to its business tax base and this is a no brainer way to do that. Its adds no kids to the school system, no traffic downtown, the police and fire departments appear to have no concerns, and its going to grow marijuana for a legitimate, legal, REGULATED use. I respect peoples concerns here, and they should be addressed so eveyone understand how this will work, but I strongly feel that this is very good opportunity for the town.

- Bill Blinstrub | 11/12/15 12:10 PM

I agree the survey monkey is flawed and confusing.

- Warren | 11/12/15 11:11 AM

more tax revenue means maybe we can add things... like free full day kindergarten, or more teachers. people need to separate medical use and recreational use. One is very legal and supported by the state. The other...well even people who use recreationally cant be arrested now unless they have more than an ounce, o the intent to distribute..

- parent | 11/12/15 10:30 AM

Beth, I'm with you on the survey. I couldn't finish the first question because I didn't understand the answers. Now, what to do next.... I think, according to some of the commenters here, that we should just get a mob together and destroy anything that offends us, whether it's legal or not. Or make hysterical hypotheses to scare the snot out of the residents who are not informed. Oh, and then disparage other towns because we feel superior (or inferior). Look, when it's all said and done, medicinal marijuana is LEGAL in the state.

- Hungry Hippo | 11/12/15 10:15 AM

Seriously hope our selectmen do NOT take the results of this survey into consideration. It makes no sense. Question #1 has "1, 2, 3" next to each option. What does that mean? Question 3 is equally confusing---why are there multiple choices for each option? The "results" of this survey are meaningless.

- Beth | 11/12/15 8:49 AM

This town needs to bring in REAL businesses. We have empty store fronts, and used car lots galore. This marijuana idea is horrendous, and there's no going back once it's here. People talk about wanting our downtown to resemble the likes of Natick, or Wellesley, but that is a pipe dream, especially if this weed farm gets the ok. We're not Woonsocket...but we're not far from it.

- Stan Coffin | 11/12/15 12:32 AM

It is discouraging how many people express opinions that are not based on research and embrace this highly financed campaign of legalization. Please take a few minutes and read facts, not opinions: www.getsmartaboutdrugs.com Read what the American Medical Association, American Cancer Society, Glaucoma Research Society, American Academy of Pediatrics etc have to say. Medical experts versus popular opinion...

- Concerned | 11/11/15 11:39 PM

Mary, you say that you verified your numbers with the potential developer, but your info is very different then previously reported and what even the lawyer involved said himself on the news. Is it one 50,000 sq ft facility with one well and 10 workers as you verify OR is it twenty 50,000 sq ft facilities with twenty wells and 100 workers? What about the dispensaries that need to be established first? If the letter of support needs to refer to an RMD, how do we ensure that's not what will end up developing in Holliston in the end? How can the Selectmen seek public input when we have no real information to base such opinions? I looked for the minutes and/or the HCAT recording, but there is nothing recent posted. The lack of facts and transparency on this is ridiculous!

- SC | 11/11/15 9:41 PM

Tom - Are you as "discussed" at the CVS in town, which has been legally dealing drugs to Hollistonians for decades? (mind you some of these drugs are highly addictive and or deadly, unlike ganja)

- Joe | 11/11/15 9:05 PM

Correction, Irv: it's a mockery of two transvestites of a sham. And I say that with all due respect.

- Woody | 11/11/15 7:58 PM

Lets not make our nice town a DRUG DEALER. We all ready have one store in town that supplies the pipes and bongs, now we will supply the weed. Really guys! is this what we want our town to be part of. What are we telling our kids. Every one needs to get together Wednesday to shoot this one down. Keep our town clean! This is not what we represent in Holliston. I was discussed to see us on the news last night entertaining the idea.

- tom | 11/11/15 5:58 PM

This is an outrage.

- Irv | 11/11/15 2:50 PM

In my opinion its a know brainer. More tax based revenue to the town. Why not, vape store, casino come on down!!

- Matthews | 11/11/15 2:06 PM

How many marijuana farms are needed to supply Massachusetts with medical marijuana? There seem be more than enough farms in this region to meet the need for medical marijuana use. If the marijuana farm is approved, what's to stop a marijuana dispensary from opening. It could be argued that marijuana is already here in Holliston,so we need to approve the dispensary. I don't understand how if they put a well in beneath the aquifer it won't impact our wells. Doesn't gravity work for water?

- Resident | 11/11/15 11:08 AM

I'd like to understand what other new businesses have been supported by the BOS and Planning Board in our town over the past 3 years and the criteria that our elected leadership is using in their decision making. Yes I believe we need to draw new business into Holliston to help offset our significant tax challenges but when I look at what has been supported it seems to fly in the face of criteria I'm seeing used to support other decisions. I don't think we hold up Brockton, Lowell or Franklin as communities similar to Holliston -in size, town charter, infrastructure, challenges or opportunities.

- debra | 11/11/15 9:52 AM

I'll resubmit my comment from the Nov. 4th Selectmen's meeting so that others might see it. PLEASE put this in perspective folks. Medical marijuana is LEGAL and many very sick people need it to combat extremely painful symptoms of diseases. If your mother or child had cancer and was dying, where would you suggest she/he get her medical marijuana from? Should Holliston be a NIMBY town? Yes, we want medical marijuana to help our loved ones, BUT DON'T GROW IT HERE? That's hypocritical! Also, the farm would have to have its own wells, so taking water from our Town Wells isn't an issue. I think the biggest concern that the town should have is SECURITY. Marijuana use is rampant among Holliston teenagers and young adults. (If you don't believe this, take your head out of the sand. It's one hundred times easier for them to obtain than alcohol. Just ask any high schooler. They know where to find it.) But, back to my point; some young people and probably some real criminals might see this as an opportunity to try to get some weed for free. HOW WILL THE FACILITY BE SECURED? And, HOW MUCH EXTRA POLICING WILL IT INVOLVE FOR THE HOLLISTON POLICE? It makes me a little nervous, because I live near Hopping Brook Park, but I also believe that we need to help people's loved ones with crippling diseases. I am proud to live in a town that is so open-minded, caring, and thoughtful(at least, I thought most people were until I read the comments below). LET'S REMEMBER WHO WE ARE AT OUR HEART IN HOLLISTON - and look at this potential medical marijuana farm OBJECTIVELY and NOT REACT EMOTIONALLY. I understand that it can be difficult not to get emotional about it, because recreational marijuana isn't legal, so people immediately want to think this is a bad thing. But, remember, it's for MEDICAL USE and it's to HELP PEOPLE, NOT to HURT people. It will be a LEGAL FACILITY to HELP people in dire straits. God forbid if those of you who are so critical of this facility might actually need medical marijuana someday. I agree with Hungry Hippo - it's just another type of pharmaceutical company. Please be a compassionate town, Holliston, like I've always thought you were. (By the way, just in case you were wondering - I've never smoked or touched marijuana, or any other illegal drugs, in my life. )

- Holliston Parent Again | 11/10/15 6:10 PM

To SC - I verified my numbers with Fran Colantonio. I cannot speak to what was written by others. As for the quality of the survey, I'd like details about the objections to help with this one and/or future ones - please contact me at mmgreendale@gmail.com.

- Mary Greendale | 11/10/15 3:22 PM

So...people seem to be confusing a dispensary with a marijuana growing facility. If this facility doesn't move into town no one will be denied medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is dispensed in a dispensary to people with prescriptions. In addition, to use a number (500,000) given by the developer and suggest that is what the town will potentially gain in revenue is highly misleading. It is to the developer's benefit to throw out a big number to gain public support. There is nothing to support that $500,000 number. In addition the statement "the costs to the town would be minimal because no children would be added to the school system" is a head scratcher. I don't think any children are added to the school system with any business, which does not mean, of course, that there are not costs to the town in many other ways. Think, Covanta.

- Anne-Marie | 11/10/15 1:37 PM

Front page of today's Metro West News, "Northborough Selectmen Give Green Light to Medical Marijuana Facility. Sounds exactly like what is proposed for Holliston.

- Bob | 11/10/15 9:16 AM

Seems like a good use of the property to me. Holliston has always had trouble attracting business, and Hopping Brook has been an unrealized dream as long as I have lived here. We desperately need tax income from businesses, and this one seems like an ideal fit.

- Peter | 11/10/15 8:27 AM

This is an outrage. What's next, an Adult books/novelty store? Hey, who cares, right? As long as it brings in property taxes. Not the town I remember

- Barry Fitzgibbons | 11/10/15 8:03 AM

Mary you state that the proposal is for a "50,000 square foot marijuana farm" and the coverage of the Selectmen meeting has it at about 1 million square foot "20 growers with about 50,000 square feet each". Big difference! The other cities also worked with companies that already had license to dispense and plan to cultivate their own product allowing the process to be much more transparent in regards to security, ventilation standards, transportation, DPH inspections etc. We need more facts that pertain to this actual request!

- SC | 11/9/15 10:34 PM

Maybe the tax money they take in on a yearly basis would help pay for new water piping in town. Then maybe they could give the residents on fixed incomes a break for a change.

- Pat | 11/9/15 8:36 PM

The survey is very poorly designed and will probably lead to skewed results. I hope the Reporter will note the design of the survey before any results are published or forwarded to the Selectmen.

- HHS Grad | 11/9/15 8:02 PM

Hmmm, methinks we like being hypocrites, and vilifying people who want to be creative and run a law abiding business. This is not a twenty-something stoner growing plants in his mother's basement and selling doobies to the high school kids while he lives in a van down by the river. These guys aren't going to be growing their crop in a field, it will be in a secured building. I know where the indoor "farm" is in Franklin (I have nothing to do with their business, they are neighbors of a business I sometimes consult with), and since there are no signs, you'd never in a million years know where it is. So we have two gun shops... they follow the laws, and last I heard there weren't any Wild West shootouts of people just trying out the guns. We have an electronic cig store... but is that any worse than the few "celebrated" stores in town that sell regular, legal, cancer-causing cigarettes? And what about the half dozen Beer/Wine/Liquor stores... do we hold them accountable for alcoholism, DUI, or teen drinking in town? When do we stop being the Pilgrims that landed here 400 years ago and become progressive? The Pilgrims left England because they were persecuted, and wanted to form a colony where they would be free... but then they got here and immediately started persecuting anyone who didn't follow their own strict laws. I say we welcome a new innovative business to town, and grow up to realize they are nothing more than a new pharmaceutical company. If you don't have a prescription for their wares, then you won't be taking it. But by opposing it, you're denying a medication to others, who would be taking it legally. Put another way, would you oppose, say, Phizer opening a small factory where they made (but did not sell) legally prescribed opioids, because it's too much like heroin?

- Hungry Hippo | 11/9/15 7:28 PM

Your survey makes no sense at all. Have someone review it.

- Confused Monkey | 11/9/15 4:42 PM

Why can we not just entice more business to come here by updating our town off septic. There have to be other ways for us to make money.

- Holliston | 11/9/15 4:41 PM

So folks opted not to have lights put in downtown since it would ruin our small town feel. Lets now include marijuana with the guns and vapes. Great small town feel folks:)

- Resident | 11/9/15 4:39 PM

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