Planning Board adjusts park restriction request for marijuana facilities

WESTFIELD – On Tuesday, the Planning Board held the first of two public hearings on its own petition for a zoning amendment to strengthen the regulation of marijuana establishments by prohibiting them within 500 feet of any park. A second public hearing on the petition is scheduled during the City Council meeting on Thursday.
Although only one member of the public spoke at the Planning Board hearing, there was a lively discussion between members of the board, which led to a revision in the initial petition requesting a prohibition. Instead the Planning Board will recommend to the City Council a special permit review for any marijuana establishments within 500 feet of a park.
The discussion on Tuesday centered on the broad definition of a park. City Planner Jay Vinskey said there are 39 parks listed in the City of Westfield, some of which include memorials such as the 911 memorial. He said other communities, including Attleboro and Sharon have added restrictions regulating marijuana establishments near parks as places where children congregate. Vinskey said in the case of the town of Sharon, the regulation would have had to go to the state attorney general for review and approval.
Vinskey also told the Planning Board that initially there was a prohibition from within 500 feet of a school in the marijuana ordinance in Westfield that had been changed by the City Council to a special permit review.
Planning Board chair William Carellas said he had discussed the petition with the City Attorney who was not in favor of it, because the Attorney General is taking a hard look at marijuana ordinances. Carellas said that in his research, he found that Northbridge, Clinton and Arlington also had the park restrictions in their ordinances.
Carellas said he had also received an email from Ward 2 Councilor Ralph J. Figy stating that the City Council had agreed to the Planning Board’s recommendation to restrict marijuana establishments to Industrial A, when the Council had initially included Business A, and he was opposed to further restrictions. He requested that the board withdraw their petition without prejudice.
Planning Board member John Bowen, who had initiated the petition, said that the Clinton ordinance listed playgrounds and public athletic fields, as opposed to the broader term of parks. “I’m against having these (facilities) close to playgrounds, where kids play sports,” he said.
Another discussion was on whether to trigger the special permit for cultivation facilities or all marijuana establishments. Some members thought the offending smell would only come from cultivation facilities, while others wanted a review for all establishments.
Only one member of the public spoke, Hutghi’s owner Dustin Cote, who said he helped to open several successful businesses in Westfield, unrelated to marijuana, and was selling his house in Northampton to move to Westfield. He said he was a part of the future of the city, and if they want to attract new business, they need to be open-minded and on the right side of history. He also said that if the same restriction were in place in Northampton or Easthampton, they wouldn’t have been able to open their shops, both of which are near Rail Trails. Vinskey said the Rail Trail is listed as a park.
Alternate member Bernard Puza said that the shops were bringing a lot of revenue to Northampton and Easthampton. “I think we have to be careful,” he said.
The regular members of the Planning Board then voted 7-0 to recommend to the City Council a special permit review for any marijuana establishment within 500 feet of a park.
Vinskey said the City Council will ask for the Planning Board’s recommendations at their public hearing on Thursday. He also asked Bowen whether he would present the petition to the Council as the originator.

To Top