Prospective Dartmouth Pot Farmer Seeks Waiver From Town
Claudia Arsenio has owned a farm at 155 Old Fall River Road in Dartmouth since 2013. Arsenio says the soil is too poor and the water table too high to grow much on the farm. She says barns on the property are in disrepair, and efforts to obtain grants to restore them have been unsuccessful.
The property has been used for farming since 1751.
Arsenio is asking the town's Zoning Board of Appeals to grant her a variance so that she might qualify to apply for the town, state, and federal permits necessary to operate "an enclosed cultivation facility for medical and recreational" marijuana on the property. She is proposing to build an 8,000 square foot facility.
It's a lengthy process, and Arsenio has already run into a bushel of opposition from some residents.
One major obstacle Arsenio faces is that the property, located at the intersection with Faunce Corner Road, stands just outside the Marijuana Overlay District established by the town.
The Zoning Board of Appeals has not yet indicated how it might rule but did grant a variance for a now-withdrawn proposal for a grow facility on State Road rejected twice by Town Meeting members. The Dartmouth Agricultural Commission has recommended against approval. Arsenio is hopeful but understands hers is an uphill battle.
Arsenio says reports she plans to operate a marijuana retail operation on the property "are simply not true," and town bylaws prevent a residential property from being within 500 feet of a marijuana cultivation facility. That might mean she would have to vacate the home she currently occupies on the property.
Arsenio says she would "let the house be office space and dry rooms etc." for the non-profit, that would operate the cultivation center as a 501c3 "non-medicinal plant farm."
Arsenio believes her proposal fits neatly within Community Preservation Committee guidelines and complies with agricultural preservation restrictions. She points out that Dartmouth is a "Right to Farm Community" and that her plan meets the qualifications needed for the use variance.
As a woman farmer, Arsenio says she is considered a minority with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) "which was created to give women and other minorities an opportunity in an industry otherwise out of reach."
The Zoning Board of Appeals conducted a hearing on Arsenio's request for a variance on March 9 but reached no conclusions. That hearing is set to resume on March 23.