Zoning board continues debate on Old Fall River Road marijuana cultivation
A vote on a proposed marijuana cultivation facility on Old Fall River Road will need to wait at least another month.
During its Sept. 21 meeting, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted to continue its ongoing hearing on the matter until October in order to get some clarification about a letter it had received from the Massachusetts Farm Bureau.
The proposed facility would be located at 155 Old Fall River Road, just outside of the town’s Marijuana Overlay District along Faunce Corner Road.
A variance to allow cannabis cultivation is being sought due to economic hardship. When the proposal for the facility was first presented to the board in March, applicant Claudia Arsenio claimed that the land has a high water table and that animals from the nearby woods have made it difficult to plant and harvest.
Previous meetings had been continued in order to see if marijuana cultivation is allowed under the property’s agricultural preservation restriction, which is currently held by the Farm Bureau.
In its letter, which was read into the record during the Sept. 21 meeting, the bureau said that it would be okay to cultivate marijuana on the property. It also stipulated that should the project move forward, the home which currently lies on the property must remain as a residential structure.
“Any alterations proposed, and/or executed, must be consistent with the residential provisions of the Massachusetts building code,” the letter read.
As initially presented, the home on the property would also be converted to office space for a nonprofit organization.
It was that stipulation that raised concerns during the meeting, as town bylaws prohibit a marijuana facility within 500 feet of a residential building.
“If this board was to approve this — I would have to deny it,” Building Commissioner Joe Braga said. “It would violate the zoning of the Town of Dartmouth… I cannot violate zoning.”
Attorney Richard Manning, who represents Arsenio, argued that the language was broad enough that it could mean that the building could have other uses, but keep its aesthetic of a home.
“It still looks like a house, but it’s an office,” he said.
Though Manning had made his argument, members of the Zoning Board said they were not comfortable with moving forward until the Farm Bureau provides further clarification.
“That paragraph is unbelievably confusing,” Board Member Alvin Youman said.
The item is scheduled for discussion at the Zoning Board of Appeals’ Oct. 26 meeting.