CHICOPEE – The City Council will consider a proposal to allow a $15 million marijuana cultivation facility to be located in a former industrial building after one of its subcommittees gave the proposal the green light.
The Council’s zoning committee voted 4-0 on Thursday to recommend Mass Alternative Care Inc. be granted a special permit to locate an about 56,000-square-foot cannabis cultivation facility in part of an about 154,000 square-foot industrial building at 77 Champion Drive.
It also approved five waivers to the regulations, including two reducing the required 100-foot planted buffer between any cannabis operation and a residential area, and at least one which was considered a technicality due to an outdated rule in the city’s zoning code.
Mass Alternative Care Inc. opened the first cannabis business in Hampden County in 2018 with a medical marijuana retail facility in 2018 at 1247 East Main St. and then expanded to add recreational sales in July 2019. The East Main St. also includes a cultivation and production operation.
“It is only a manufacturing facility,” said AJ Crane, owner of A. Crane Construction, which is renovating the building for the new project. “There is no public access at all.”
He called it an “ideal location” for the business. The building is in an industrial zone, which allows for cannabis cultivation. There is no problem with water or electrical access and there is a gated fence surrounding the entire property. It is also far from churches, schools and other protected uses.
The project is nearly identical to one Apical Inc., of Easthampton, proposed in March of 2019. The zoning committee had voted to recommend the plan then, but that company never went through with the development, City Planner Lee Pouliot said.
“They had a good idea. We decided to do the same thing,” Crane said. “Same building. Same presentation. Same use.”
The company currently has six cultivation rooms and the new location, if approved, would have a dozen and allow owners to increase operations by 300%, said Kevin Collins, manager of Mass Alternative Care.
If approved the company would hire about 100 full- and part-time employees who would earn salaries ranging from $30,000 a year for those will little experience up to about $45,000 for more-experienced growers, Collins said.
Along with the $15 million investment, the company will pay up to 20% taxes which includes a 6.25% sales tax, a 10.75% excise tax, and local option tax for cities and towns up to 3%. It has also paid the city more than $2 million in use fees for water, sewer and electricity since it opened the first business.
One neighbor signed onto the virtual meeting. While she had no complaints about the proposal, she did ask questions about any smell coming from the building, which Collins explained was handled with a high-tech ventilation system that includes odor control scrubbers.
City Councilor George Balakier also asked about the other company, Holden Humphry, which distributes building materials, which is located in the 77 Champion Drive building.
Barbara Green, who represents the building owners, said they have talked to the owners and they have no complaints about the new proposal.