FRAMINGHAM – Eastleigh Farm owner Doug Stephan is seeking to lease 12 acres of his 112-acre historic farm in Framingham to a company, which would grow and package marijuana in a secure, indoor facility to be constructed on site.
More than 100 people attended a meeting last night at the Friends Meeting House on Edmands Road to listen to Stephan, Commonwealth Farm 1761, Inc., and its attorneys discuss the proposal, which would still need City of Framingham approval as well as approval by the State’s Cannabis Control Commission.
Stephan, who had previously filed a subdivision plan with the city for development of the farm, told the standing room only crowd at the 90-minute January 7 meeting, “this is probably the best scenario I could possibly hope for” to save the farm.
Charlestown native Jonathan Tucker, 36, a former dancer with the Boston Ballet and an actor in several movies and television shows, is the CEO of Commonwealth Farm 1761 Inc. The California resident said he has fought “McMansion development” in his neighborhood, and said he wants to be a “good neighbor,” and work to save a farm, which he wants to bring his kids to visit.
The proposal to save the farm calls for Stephan to lease a dozen acres of the 112-acre site to Commonwealth Farm 1761 for 99 years. The cost of the lease was not disclosed, and it has not been signed yet.
Commonwealth Farm would then seek local and state approvals to construct and operate a marijuana cultivation and packaging facility in District 3 of the City.
The location of the indoor facility would be about 1,200 to 1,300 feet from the Edmands Road entrance of the farm property, and about 1,400 feet from the Pheasant Hill neighborhood.
The newly-constructed facility would be nestled in the middle of the historic farm property, with fencing and high security, said Becca Rutenberg, director of strategic affairs in Massachusetts for Vicente Sederberg, a national law firm that represents cannabis endeavors.
Rutemberg told the audience of abutters and mostly resident of Framingham, that the building would be constructed to blend in with the agricultural style of the area.
She described security measures between that of a “casino and a nuclear power plant.”
“Members of the public would not be allowed within the facility, ” she said, adding that staff access would be monitored.
The company plans to use state-of-the-art video surveillance, and that the warehouses will be sealed with screened access.
If approved, the company would start out constructing 24,000 square feet of marijuana canopy expanding to 100,000 square feet – the maximum allowed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – expanding slowly over a 5-year period.
Commonwealth Farm 1761 would need minor site plan approval from the Framingham Planning Board, as well as a host agreement from the City, via Mayor Yvonne Spicer, who did not attend the meeting.
The City’s new Citizen participation officer attended the meeting, as did several City Councilors, including George King, Cheryl Tully Stoll, District 3 Adam Steiner, District 6 Mike Rossi, and District 1 Charlie Sisitsky.
The plan would also need approval by the State. The approval process is estimated at 6 months to a year, said Adam Fine, a partner with Vicente Sederberg, a national law firm representing Commonwealth Farms 1761.
Fine said construction is estimated to take about a year. Construction cost range, he said, was between $8 and $20 million.
Tucker said Buky International, which has built facilities in America and Canada, will design and construct the Framingham facility.
The company said it is committed to hiring local employees, and that employees would be shuttled in from an off-site parking lot, to reduce traffic on Edmands Road.
The company, and its law firm, said there is no plans to use the access road from the Pheasant Hill neighborhood. All employees would be age 21 or older, and many jobs would be full-time.
At no time, when the site is operational, will there be any sale of marijuana or cannabis products, said Tucker.
The company will produce high-end, and high-in-demand marijuana products to retail outlets and distributors, he explained.
Tucker said the Company will produce cannabis in an environmental-friendly way. He said the state has high energy rules, and Commonwealth Farms will meet them.
“Our success will depend on how good of a neighbor we are,” said Tucker.
Rutemberg said the proposal was designed to “mitigate nusisance through attention to site plan, transportation, and odor control.”
Attendees asked questions about light pollution at night and odor control throughout operation.
Tucker and Stephan reminded the attendees that Commonwealth Farm 1761 Inc would be a for-profit venture and thus a taxable entity by the City of Framingham.
The City, via a host agreement issued, by the Mayor, can request that up to 3 percent of revenues go to the City.
District 1 City Councilor Sisitsky, whose district includes Edmands Road, said this was a “win-win. This is the best possible solution for saving the farm, and generating revenue for the farm.”
Eastleigh Farm dates back to the 1870s.
It was a family-owned Guernsey Dairy Farm until 1981. From 1981 to 1996, it operated as a beef farm.
In 1986, about 160 acres of the 380-acre site was sold to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Department of Environmental Management.
In 2007, Stephan began reconverting the farm back to dairy production.
In the fall of 2009, the farm began selling raw milk. The farm also sold yogurt, organic eggs, and delicious ice cream. And then, everything closed in 2015.
In recent years, Stephan has been struggling to find new ways to keep the farm open while maintaining the open land.
Avenue C Designs opened on the farm, as did several other commercial and retail business ventures; and the farm has held several festivals and events in 2017 and 2018, including the Rock the Farm event.
Ice cream also returned to the farm last year, but the events, the retail agreements, and the delicious ice cream was not enough to keep the farm in business.