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Pittsfield Panel Continues Marijuana Zoning Restriction Decision
By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
02:22AM / Wednesday, January 22, 2020
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The Community Development Board is considering a zoning amendment that would eliminate outdoor marijuana growing from residential neighborhoods. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Community Development Board continued a hearing giving it more time to consider a zoning amendment that would essentially eliminate outdoor marijuana cultivation in residential neighborhoods.
The board heard from City Planner CJ Hoss on Tuesday who spelled out different outdoor cultivation zoning scenarios and the board agreed to hold off on a decision allowing members to digest the information they heard for the first time that night.
"Then we can look at even more scenarios, look at different impacts, and see how this can be resolved," Chairwoman Sheila Irvin said. 
The proposed change comes from a petition sponsored by the City Council and Hoss went through a series of maps and scenarios that showed where cultivation would be eliminated with different minimum lot sizes, different set backs, and elimination from specific zones.
The more stringent the regulations the more areas in the city were locked out. 
"You see it starts to expand out further it pushes this further out and in a lot of existing neighborhoods and pockets where there is some density ... we start losing many of the existing farms and existing properties that are farmed," Hoss said.  
The board opened the floor to residents and there were both voices in favor of the regulations as well as those in opposition.
Councilor at Large Earl Persip, who moved the petition to make this amendment through City Council, said he was not against outdoor cultivation but felt it did not belong in neighborhoods. 
"We are not against cultivation completely we are against cultivation in our residential neighborhoods," he said. "A lot of people don't have to worry about this because where certain neighborhoods are but it seems like the residents of Ward 7 are always fighting solar panels, cell towers, and now cultivation."
Persip said Pittsfield has long been the "guinea pig" when it comes to new outside development. He added that he needed more data before accepting cultivation in neighborhoods. 
"Is 500 feet enough, is it a 1,000 feet enough? We don't know where that smell is going to be," Persip said. "I don't want to be the guinea pig like we were for solar. We learned a hard lesson." 
The majority of residents who spoke were concerned with possible odor, views, property values, industrial operations in a residential zone, and quality of life. 
"I am not totally against all cannabis use but cultivation I believe should take place in industrial zoning. Not residential," resident Andy Kelly said.
There were a few who felt any zoning restrictions had to be made with great care. Others thought the restrictions would be a real detriment to farmers. 
"To ban this to me is a little radical. Almost seems like we are going back in time," local farmer Bill Mangiardi said. "We need to embrace things like this, anything that will help keep a piece of land together."
The proposal by a marijuana cultivator to lease Mangiardi's land on Peck's Road prompted Persip's petition. 
Although the board was not totally against setting restrictions they were hesitant to totally lock outdoor cultivation out of the majority of the city.
"To go from our current zoning to basically banning marijuana cultivation in 95 percent of the city that does not seem like an equitable solution for neighborhoods, farmers, and the community," board member Gary Levante said. "I think we want to sit with this a little more ... I think we need to think long and hard about removing this carte blanche."
Board member Floriana Fitzgerald agreed.
"I’d have to agree to remove cultivation from all of these districts. It would really be a detriment to the city," she said. "I think we have tried many times to get rid of everything and it just doesn't work out we need to find a compromise." 
Levante added that he thought a 500 foot setback restriction may be a good compromise that would protect neighborhoods.
Board member Elizabeth Herland followed suite with the rest of the board and felt other things could be done through the permitting process to dampen possible concerns instead of all but eliminating outdoor cultivation from the city’s zoning.
She said she would be interested in seeing what the map would look like with 1,000 foot setbacks and added that she did not want to totally handcuff farmers when it comes to marijuana cultivation. 
The board will take up the issue again in February. 
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