PAWLET — The old Lesley Iron Works building on Route 153 in West Pawlet could be taking “green business” to a new level: In a notice of an Act 250 permit from April 3, Castleton resident Anthony Traficanti said he hopes to remodel it into a medical marijuana and hemp processing facility.
“We’re trying to transform that old building into some useful space,” said Pawlet Select Board chair Michael Beecher. “It’s been vacant for over five years, probably longer.”
Zoning Administrator Hal Wilkins said almost one year ago, Traficanti came before the Planning Commission with a possible plan for the buildings owned by Larry Lesley, whose successful iron operation generated heavy traffic and noise and extended hours of operation.
“Anthony’s project will be a minor amendment to the Lesley operation,” Wilkins said. “We never had any problems with Lesley Iron Works. ... This business will have significantly less of an impact.”
Wilkins said Traficanti indicated he would need approximately six employees, which could potentially mean six new families for the town and possibly more students for the schools.
“The benefit will be jobs,” Wilkins said. “For farmers, too: fallow fields being converted to hemp production.”
At this point, Wilkins said the town has issued an “OK” notice for discharge for the sewer and waste water, and currently has letters out to the schools looking for impact comments, but no one in the town has said a word opposing the proposed facility.
“He’s quiet, he’s clean and there will be a much lower traffic profile than the previous operations,” Wilkins said. “We looked at this very critically and really could only give him a blessing.”
Wilkins said Traficanti hasn’t submitted a proposal to the Development Review Board yet, but when he does, they’ll probably approve it.
“Anthony is very diligent in getting his pieces together to get the final approval,” Wilkins said. “We’re looking at this as being pro-agriculture, and pro-business.”
But not everyone approves of a green new deal settling in the western Rutland County town.
“I’ve lived here almost all my life,” Dorothy Brace, of West Pawlet, said. “I’ll be 93 in July. ... I don’t think we need any marijuana or anything like that around here.”
Brace said the proposed location of the facility was too close to her friends, family and neighbors, and remembers fondly when she would ice skate on the property after the town flooded it to harvest the ice.
“It was a creamery for years,” Brace said. “They then had ... a slate-table company. Had quite a few different things there. ... It came as kind of a shock that they were considering (a hemp processing facility.)”
Fellow resident Dimitar Atanasov said he’d need to know more about the project before he officially signed off on it, such as whether there would be any waste products and how the products and by-products would be stored.
“If it’s environmentally friendly and contains its business within its area, I don’t see why not,” Atanasov said.