January 25, 2019

Marijuana grower appeals Charlton site plan denial

Photo | Zachary Comeau
Valley Green Grow wants to develop the land at Charlton Orchards into a massive cannabis cultivation complex.

The proposed operator of a 1-million-square-foot cannabis cultivation facility is suing the Charlton Planning Board after it denied the company's site plan earlier this month.

In its 63-page appeal filed in Worcester Superior Court, Valley Green Grow said the Planning Board stepped outside of its statutory authority when it came to the conclusion the massive project would be an industrial or manufacturing use on agriculturally-zoned land.

"The Planning Board's decision, denying site plan approval for the project violates long-standing Massachusetts law concerning the limits and extent of regulatory authority concerning site plan review," the filing said.

The town and Planning Board could not immediately be reached for comment.

The project is proposed to be on the land owned by Charlton Orchards, which hopes to sell the property to Valley Green Grow.

The North Andover-based company wants to build the 860,000-square-feet of closed greenhouse and supporting functions for up to six unaffiliated tenants to grow and manufacture cannabis products.

However, the project has hit several snags in town. The company in April filed a subdivision plan for the property to freeze the zoning before the town passed a zoning bylaw that kept cannabis in industrial zones.

However, the town's zoning enforcement officer's interpretation of the town's bylaws and state laws governing the siting of cannabis facilities determined that the cultivation, production and manufacturing of cannabis was allowed in the town's agricultural use before the cannabis zoning bylaw passed.

Further, the company said the vast majority of the project would be indoor commercial horticulture, which is an allowed use in the agricultural district.

That point was also made the the board's attorney, Valley Green Grow said in its complaint.

The site plan was pending with the Planning Board for five months, after which consultants for Valley Green Grow and the town's own peer review consultants said the project would satisfy criteria and conditions for site plan approval, the complaint said.

Valley Green Grow is also suing the town for a general bylaw brought by a resident petition passed last year prohibiting all recreational marijuana businesses from town.

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