Planning Board Meeting

Wednesday, November 6, 2019, 6:00 pm until 12:30 pm
Colrain Central School-22 Jacksonville Rd.
A meeting of the Planning Board

Meeting of Planning Board

Members: (Quorum)

  • Present: Betsy Corner, Member, at 6:00 PM
  • Present: Sara Wik, Member, at 6:00 PM
  • Present: Jonathan Lagreze, Vice Chair, at 6:00 PM
  • Present: Robert Slowinski, Chair, at 6:00 PM
  • Present: Loren Feinstein, Secretary, at 6:00 PM
  • Present: Don Kahn, Member, at 6:00 PM
  • Present: Gregory Olchowski, Member, at 6:00 PM

Also Present:

  • Thomas Karom representing Gary Herzig
  • Alice Wozniak Colrain Assesor's Office.

See original Agenda Approved Meeting Minutes

Meeting opened: 6:25 PM

Meeting closed: 7:15 PM

  1. Meeting Preliminaries

    • Meeting Opened / Attendance Taken (see above).

    • No minutes to approve.

  2. New Business

    • 6:00PM: Approval Not Required-Gary Herzig

      General Discussion...
      The board found everything in order and approval not to be required, and all present signed all necessary documents.

  3. Old Business

    • 6:15PM: Public Hearing Followup - Discussion and integration of public feedback from the preceding Planning Board Public Hearing on Marijuana Bylaw Amendments to the Colrain Protective Zoning Bylaws.

      General Discussion...
      The board discussed many points that were raised by townspeople and heard at the preceding public hearing.

      There was clear voicing by the townspeople at the preceding hearing of their desire to support small-scale, local farmers taking advantage of this new industry over large-scale, more industrial big-business growers from out of town, though both are of interest to bring in commerce to the town. This was suggested to be accomplished either through minimizing the town bylaw requirements on proposed marijuana establishments or through having a clear path established for potential marijuana businesses to follow to obtain legal permissions.

      There was clear voicing by the townspeople at the preceding hearing of their desire to support "green" and "sustainable" farming practices, including but not limited to natural light growing, use of organic fertilizer/herbicide/pesticides, etc...

      There was also some concern voiced by some townspeople about the potential impacts of the growing and processing of marijuana, especially on neighbors, and there was a voiced desire to see enough protections in place to mitigate any issues of public or environmental safety, smells, light pollution, etc...

      After thorough discussion of the many comments that were heard at the preceding public hearing, there was a general consensus amongst all members of the board, except for Johnathan Lagreze, that most of the comments were in line with the general approach to the proposed marijuana amendments. There were certainly comments on both sides, some calling for more restrictions, while most wanted to see marijuana cultivation and sale supported in a safe way for the benefit of our town by encouraging this new type business. The board, excepting Mr. Lagreze, viewed the proposed approach as primarily accomplishing the townspeople's wishes by using the presented "Streamlined approach", which makes slight modifications to the existing protective zoning bylaw use table, instead of adding entirely new bylaws pertaining to marijuana. This gives a clear path for a prospective marijuana business to follow to obtain legal permissions to operate in Colrain. The proposed Special Permit by Planning Board process required for many types of marijuana businesses would also give protections to the town and neighboring property owners, while not preventing any businesses outright and allowing for a relatively simple permitting process.

      A general consensus was reached amongst the Planning Board, with the exception Johnathan Lagreze, whom after being given ample opportunity to voice his concerns and be heard by all members present, refused to stop repeating or embellishing his previously stated desire to allow marijuana businesses by right with fewer to no restrictions. This led to the motion to push the existing proposed marijuana amendments to a vote.

      MOTION, moved by Robert Slowinski, seconded by Sara Wik: Robert Slowinski moved to push the following motion (to approve the proposed marijuana amendments as they stand) to a vote.

      Pass: Aye: Betsy Corner, Sara Wik, Robert Slowinski, Loren Feinstein, Don Kahn, Gregory Olchowski. Nay: Jonathan Lagreze.

      There was dissatisfaction voiced by Johnathan Lagreze, who felt he was being silenced, and there was otherwise unanimous support by all other board members.

      MOTION, moved by Sara Wik, seconded by Robert Slowinski: To send the current draft of the marijuana amendment to the zoning bylaw as-is to the special town meeting.

      Pass: Aye: Betsy Corner, Sara Wik, Robert Slowinski, Loren Feinstein, Don Kahn, Gregory Olchowski. Nay: Jonathan Lagreze.

      Lots of discussion about best ways to incorporate as much of the comments and concerns from the public hearing. Everyone present, except for Johnathan Lagreze, felt that the current proposed marijuana amendments are a very good starting point for this ongoing and evolving process. There is the need to have a clear path and procedure in place for this new industry, and it is felt by all, excepting Johnathan Lagreze, that this proposed amendment is a good and necessary first step in addressing this need. There has always been acknowledgement that the Colrain Bylaws are a living document and can be amended at anytime in the future, but that this was a good place to start.

      Johnathan Lagreze again gave voice to his desire to rework the amendments again and hold a second public hearing on a revised draft. All other members heard his concern, but felt that there had been ample townspeople feedback from any concerned individuals at the preceding public hearing, and that Johnathan Lagreze, as the main contributor to the current proposed amendments for over the past three years, has been heard in full each time and has continued to change and contradict his own proposals. So through a push motion, this got put to a vote, knowing that it can always be revisited in the future and revised, but also hoping that it would be good to get something in place as a starting point and after many years of deliberation on the subject.

    • 6:50PM: Rules and Responsibilities of Planning Board Membership

      General Discussion...
      Johanthan Lagreze departed the Planning Board Meeting to attend the ZBA hearing at the town hall.

      Due to a voiced need for a clearer, more inclusive, less intimidating, and more effective working environment during and surrounding planning board meetings, there was a discussion to clarify guidelines and accepted practices for roles, responsibilities, procedures, and decorum of planning board members during planning board meetings and for outside of meeting communications.

      Discussed that communications, especially any official communications, with the town offices and other parties outside of the planning board should only be through the chairperson.

      Discussed the need to keep the communications between meetings limited, both for time management and to be in accordance with open meeting laws. Only communications dealing with scheduling should be undertaken and no communications dealing with opinions or topics of discussion, other than to request they be added to the next meeting's agenda.

      Discussed need to have a more formalized discussion procedure in order to allow all people to be heard equally, ideally using a moderator, either the chairperson or a selected individual. Perhaps imposing discussion time-limits per person, if necessary. There has been a general discontent with certain individuals with a more forceful presence being able to dominate discussions and not allow others to feel heard. We hope to help build a more welcoming and inclusive discussion environment.

  4. Meeting Wrap-up

The listing of matters is those reasonably anticipated by the Chair which may be discussed at the meeting. Not all items listed may in fact be discussed and other items not listed may also be brought up for discussion to the extent permitted by law.

Minutes approved on Wednesday, Dec 4, 2019

Posted to: Planning Board.