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Whately Select Board approves agreement for indoor pot cultivation site

  • The Whately Select Board has approved a host community agreement for a proposed marijuana cultivation facility on property owned by John Lasalle of Lasalle Florists. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Whately Select Board has approved a host community agreement for a proposed marijuana cultivation facility on the property currently owned by John Lasalle of Lasalle Florists. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ



Staff Writer
Monday, January 11, 2021

WHATELY — The Select Board has approved a host community agreement for a proposed marijuana cultivation facility on the property currently owned by John Lasalle of Lasalle Florists.

The group, Whately RE Holdings Inc., is proposing an indoor cultivation site at 23 Lasalle Drive. The company is a newly formed entity and the site at Lasalle Drive would be its first project.

The operation — which still needs approval from the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and state Cannabis Control Commission — would begin as a Tier 1 5,000-square-foot grow that will be “progressively scaled up as needed,” Chris Cimini, a member of the company, previously explained. The host community agreement allows for up to 100,000 square feet of canopy, the largest amount permitted in Massachusetts (Tier 11).

The applicants previously explained that minor improvements would be made for security and lighting purposes, including a proposed perimeter fence. The greenhouses for cultivation exist already through the flower shop.

John Lasalle said at a November Select Board meeting that the front field on the corner of Claverack Road will still be growing space for either flowers or vegetables. The house on the property, where he currently resides, will be sold with the property and remain as a residence.

“The main thing I like about this project is that the greenhouses will remain as greenhouses and will be refurbished and kept up, as now they’re in need of maintenance, which I can’t afford to do,” Lasalle said at the time. “With these people purchasing the property, it will enhance the greenhouses and put them in their proper use.”

Before approving the agreement, Select Board Chairman Frederick Orloski asked if there would be any impact on the town water system.

“We have our own wells,” said Neal Dach of Whately RE Holdings. “The town water supplies water to the residential spaces … which obviously those would remain similar to as they are now.”

He said overall, the total usage of the wells would probably be less than what it was for the flower farm because the marijuana cultivation facility will have a recirculating system with better efficiency.

Lasalle added that the fields are irrigated out of the Mill River.

Select Board member Joyce Palmer-Fortune said the host community agreement is primarily concerned with the financial aspects of the operation.

“We always want to hear a good plan,” she said. “A lot of the abutters’ concerns, and I think there are some, we need to make sure those get addressed by the Planning Board and the ZBA, and others. … I think these folks are amenable to doing whatever they can to help mitigate the concerns of the abutters.”

At the November Select Board meeting, the son of the current owners of 13 Lasalle Drive expressed concerns with the proposed project, namely the experience of the individuals involved, the aesthetics of the proposed fence and the potential odor.

Dach said the group could use odor detectors to quantify the amount of smell. He also noted that the greenhouses will be sealed.

“There won’t be any smell getting out of those houses,” he said at the time.

As for issues of lighting, he said an opaque layer would be put up after sunset so that the lights of the greenhouses won’t be visible during the night, either.

“We want to ... do everything possible to address those concerns,” Dach said.

The host community agreement the Select Board signed with Whately RE Holdings is essentially the same as the agreement reached between the Select Board and Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers (DMCTC), the proposed marijuana growing facility at 7 River Road, according to Town Administrator Brian Domina.

“It’s essentially the same agreement as we had previously entered into with DMCTC,” Domina said. “Community impact fee is the same, at 3%, and the charitable contribution and educational contributions are also the same as prior applicants.”

According to Palmer-Fortune, both the charitable and educational contributions are paid out over a period of five years — $5,000 on the first and second years, and $10,000 on the third, fourth and fifth year of operation. Whately RE Holdings will need to list those charitable contributions as part of its annual report.

Palmer-Fortune, who said the town has signed several host community agreements, said she thinks Whately’s location is part of what makes the area a desirable home for businesses such as Whately RE Holdings.

“There’s plenty of farmland for the cultivators and easy access to (Interstate) 91 for people who want to do retail,” she said. “And those are the kinds (of agreements) we have.”