BECKET — For more than a year, a Becket couple has been waiting for a retirement dream to come true.
A few things stand in the way.
And more than a few neighbors.
Next week, the Becket Planning Board will resume a hearing into whether a Connecticut company, TetraHydra AgTek LLC, should be granted a special permit for a cannabis farm on Quarry Road. Recent hearings have been long, with neighbors voicing urgent appeals to planners to deny the project, citing concerns about water quality and supply, odor and light pollution, among other things.
As the last two-hour session drew to a close, on Feb. 9, Adrienne K. Metcalf spoke up. She is the co-owner of property that would be leased for the farm.
“Where’s our quality of life in this mix?” Metcalf asked. She questioned the motives of people who have raised questions about marijuana odor, a concern she dismissed as unrealistic.
“I have to wonder at the motivation. I just have to wonder. Because there is a quality-of-life question here,” she said. “When I find out that one of the main issues within some of the most fervent detractors [of] this project has been that Josh and I do not have the right to retire on money from our land.”
Metcalf’s frustration spilled forward. “Oh, you’re gonna have to see a greenhouse. Gee, really? Is that so horrible? Is that really so horrible?” she asked.
The board plans to take up the application again at 6 p.m. Feb. 23. The proposal first was aired in January 2021, then was withdrawn and resubmitted in June. The application was taken up at a contentious Planning Board meeting in August, when the review was delayed by the discovery that applicants needed to have secured a host community agreement with Becket, a document now in hand.
A Pittsfield attorney representing more than three dozen people in the area of southeast Becket presented a list of perceived problems with the application to the board Feb. 9.
Mitchell I. Greenwald spoke, among other things, of changes to the application that resulted in improper notification of abutters. He said town bylaws require separate applications for indoor and outdoor marijuana cultivation, regardless of state rules.
“None of them are resolved,” Greenwald said Monday, speaking of those issues. “And some, I don’t think, are resolvable with the existing plan.”
At its last session, Michael Goodenough, a TetraHydra AgTek partner, responded to issues raised by opponents. He said the project could drop the outdoor growing field that is included in the plan it submitted in late January.
“Right now, that outdoor field is not a necessity; rather, it was a placeholder for us for the additional greenhouses, if that was ever going to be our future,” he said via the Zoom connection. “We can remove that from the plan if that’s required, but I don’t think it changes our plan in any way, shape or form.”
Goodenough said Monday he plans to see if the board requests that the project drop the outdoor field as a condition of approval.
“It’s a question of whether we have to,” he said. “We’ll have to make a decision from there. All of the numbers are really built off of the greenhouse.”
If the applicant provides new materials, Greenwald said he will request that his clients have a chance to speak again. “My clients will be entitled to, and insist on, the right to comment on the new material.”
Karen Karlberg, of Becket West Road, told the board it should heed neighbors’ concerns and “reflect the will of the community.”
“We want our voices heard,” she said. “You have got a community up on Quarry Road that is telling you something, and I don’t think you have the right to just ignore them.”
Michael Lavery, a Select Board member, spoke in support of the Quarry Road farm, noting that he made bringing the cannabis-cultivation industry to Becket one of this campaign goals.
“It fits in with our rural, farming community,” he said.
Lavery said the Select Board’s host community agreement with TetraHydra AgTek will protect the community. “This is something we’ve taken seriously,” he said.
Property owner’s appeal
Metcalf owns the Quarry Road land with Jerome H. Schwartzback, according to property records. She said she believes that TetraHydra AgTek has responded to concerns raised over the past year.
“They researched, they found answers,” Metcalf said. “They changed things. … They found they needed to make changes in answer to your complaints. I just have to wonder who you all are, that this has been your life’s journey for the last year.”
Earlier, neighbors opposed to the farm backed up and broadened points raised by Greenwald.
The leaders of two local homeowners groups urged the board to deny the permit.
David Edell, who chairs Skyline Ridge Property Owners’ Association, said members of his group are those who would be affected most.
“We’re closest … and have the greatest potential impact or are impacted,” he said. “We don’t believe that we have the protections necessary in order to deal with worst-case situations as they arise once this begins.”
The president of the Indian Lakes Association said she believes that the concerns spelled out amount to enough to prevent board approval.
Beverly Lambert, who lives on Quarry Road, said she thinks the farm is a mismatch for the area.
“The proposal by TetraHydra AgTek is not in keeping with the character of our neighborhood,” Lambert said.
Tess Lundberg, a year-round resident on Valley View Road, asked the board to press for more information on water supplies, and on “how that will impact our neighbors’ wells and the aquifer in general.”
Robert Alarie, of Andrews Road, said he, too, questioned whether the area can provide water for current users as well as a marijuana farm — and termed the project detrimental to the “character of the neighborhood.”
Goodenough, of TetraHydra AgTek, said during the meeting that the farm would not draw more groundwater than 4.5 households.
“Our environmental footprint here is one of the greatest designs that exists in the cannabis industry right now,” he said. “We are using multiple technologies to reduce our impact and consumption on electricity.
“You guys speak of quality of life,” he said, addressing the project’s opponents. “I swear to you, we will do everything we can to improve all that we can, at every corner that we can. And I say that with my whole heart. ”