WESTFIELD – The Westfield City Council Jan. 7 approved a Community Host Agreement for a marijuana testing lab, among other items brought forward by subcommittees during the Council meeting.
Legislative and Ordinance Committee Chair William Onyski brought a 2 to 1 recommendation for the approval of a resolution for Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. to sign a Host Community Agreement (HCA) for Safetiva Labs.
Onyski said this HCA is for a testing lab for marijuana at 109 Apremont Way in an outbuilding on the Berkshire Industries property that had received a site plan and special permit from the Planning Board.
“They’ve got a pretty good start on this,” Onyski said, describing it as a woman-owned business which gets moved to the top of the list for a state license . He said they would be applying to the state for a license in a couple of weeks.
Onyski said there is no community impact fee (CIP) in the HCA due to the small amounts of marijuana they would be testing, and that they wouldn’t have the traffic or other issues that grow or retail facilities could have. He said the two other testing facilities in the state — in Salem and Framingham – don’t have CIPs on the businesses either.
“The city is looking for ways to collect on CIPs, we can’t take it carte blanche,” Onyski said.
At-Large Councilor James R. Adams said he was the dissenting vote, due to his opposition to the industry. He said in this case, he was concerned that no CIP was included, because another recent grow facility approved at the same address did have an impact fee.
At-large Councilor Cindy C. Harris said she agreed with Adams, noting they wouldn’t be paying property tax either for an existing building. “I am excited that it is woman-owned,” she said, adding that while she did not support marijuana legalization, the people voted for it. “I am concerned that this won’t be bringing any income to Westfield outside of jobs.”
“You are correct, this would bring in the same amount of money or jobs as if it were a machine shop. The property tax is already there. The benefit is you’re bringing jobs into Westfield — higher income jobs,” Onyski said.
“This is exactly what we were looking for,” said Council President Brent B. Bean II. “This is a spinoff business, needed throughout the state, testing products, filling a vacant building by Berkshire industries. Five (employees) out of the gate, 14 to 15 high paying jobs. This is exactly what we’re looking for. It’s going to be very hard to show impact even in the best circumstances. With this particular small business, there will be very little. I did have a conversation with the owner; very community-minded, wants to be involved. There really is going to be minimal impact, in my opinion.”
“I agree with Councilor Bean with his assessment. When this started three years ago, this is the type of business we were looking to bring in. It won’t have a high impact on vehicle traffic, safety, schools. These are high paying science jobs. The Cannabis Control Commission would have to approve any fee we charge. This is going to be giving us employees who hopefully will be living in Westfield, spending their money in Westfield,” Ward 2 Councilor Ralph J. Figy said.
At-Large Councilor Dave Flaherty, who has been vocal in his oppositiion to legalizing marijuana, said he was ok with this one.. “I don’t like the idea of recreational jobs, and don’t like encouraging it with young people. This is a lab. The purpose is to make sure there’s not any bad stuff going into retail,” he said, adding that he saw a public benefit to the business
After further discussion, the council voted 11 to 2 to support the HCA, with Adams and Ward 1 Councilor Nicholas J. Morganelli Jr. voting no.
Ward 3 Councilor Bridget Matthews-Kane said the license committee met and on a 3 to 0 vote recommending approval of a junk collector’s license for Trash Fish Junk Removal at 33 Sunrise Terrace.
“We discussed the points the residents raised in the public hearing, but felt that ultimately this would work for the neighborhood. Councilor Beltrandi assured us that if in the future the business didn’t meet the requirements of the zoning, the license would be pulled,” Matthews-Kane said, before a unanimous vote to approve the license.
Under unfinished business, At-large Councilor Richard K. Sullivan Jr. gave an update on his work with Peter Cowles on closed caption for broadcasts during council meetings. He said Cowles got two quotes with a large disparity between them, and was seeking a third one. He thanked Cowles for his work on this, and said they should have a final recommendation to discuss in the government relations subcommittee shortly.
Also on Jan. 7, the finance committee recommended approval on a vote of 2-0 to deficit spend in the Snow & Ice account for fiscal year 2021, which the Council approved unanimously.
Committee chair Figy said he didn’t remember the item coming before the finance committee in the past, and in researching it found it doesn’t need council approval, because this deficit spending is authorized through Mass General Law.
Flaherty said the council used to approve the deficit spending every year, but no longer needs to due to the Municipal Modernization Act of 2016.
On another item, Adams said the legislative and ordinance committee voted 3 to 0 to recommend that the City of Westfield sign a confirmatory deed to Nicholas and Edna Affenito for a parcel known as 20 Clinton Avenue.
Adams said that back in 1949, the city took the property for taxes and sold it to this family. However, incorrect square footage listed was listed on the deed. “We’re cleaning up the deed so the piece of property can be sold, The city will get back $30,000 in back taxes,” he said, after which the item passed unanimously.