HAMILTON — In the face of growing opposition, Green Meadows Farm CEO Robert Patton has decided to “pause” his controversial proposal to build a marijuana cultivation greenhouse on the family’s farm.
Patton said on Thursday that he is in discussions with opponents of the proposal about “potential path forwards.” He declined to give more details.
“This is a pause,” Patton said. “That’s really the best way to put it.”
Patton, the grandson of World War II Gen. George S. Patton, signed an agreement with the town last August to build a medical marijuana cultivation facility on the family’s Green Meadows Farm on Asbury Street. The proposed 60,000-square-foot greenhouse would grow up to 6,000 pounds of medical marijuana per year.
The proposal needs approval from the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. The Zoning Board was scheduled to hold a hearing on the matter on Wednesday night, but Patton asked for a continuance.
The decision came a day after a contentious public hearing at Town Hall. About 100 residents packed a meeting of the Planning Board on Tuesday, with several of them speaking against the project.
Patton acknowledged that the meeting was difficult, but said, “We’re all big boys and we’re in discussions.”
Benjamin Tymann, an attorney who is representing Christopher and Deborah Abbott, neighbors who oppose the greenhouse, confirmed that he and his clients are in discussions with Green Meadows about a “mutually agreeable resolution.” Tymann also declined to say what that resolution might be.
“We’re optimistic about the outcome,” he said.
Residents who spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting raised several objections to the marijuana greenhouse, including concerns over water use, odor and the impact of marijuana use on kids.
The Patton family has lived in town since 1928 and has been praised as generous benefactors, including for its donation of the family estate to the town in 2012. But there was little praise for the Patton name on this night. As residents stepped to the microphone to criticize the plan, others in the crowded audience, some sitting on the floor, others standing in the hallway, shouted or applauded in response.
Jodie Fenton, who lives in the Patton Ridge development on land that the Pattons donated to the city, called the family “wonderful people” who “did so much for this country.”
“But this is America,” she said. “When I spoke to Bob once he told me he wants to be judged on his merit, not on his father’s or his grandfather’s merit. So I’d like everybody to have clear heads and judge this project on what it’s going to do for Hamilton.”
At one point, Christopher Abbott turned to Patton, who was sitting in the front row, and asked him if he had talked to neighbors to see how they feel about the project.
“I think you might get a wake-up call whether they think you’re a good neighbor,” Abbott said.
This is not the first time opposition by the Abbotts has impacted a Patton project. Last year, Green Meadows abandoned a plan to build a marijuana greenhouse on the Topsfield side of its property.
Tymann said Patton dropped that plan after the Abbotts filed a court appeal contesting Topsfield’s marijuana zoning provision. Patton said he had concerns over potential impacts on wetlands on the property.
Patton, 61, is an author who has written six books, including a history of his family, and lives in Connecticut. He said he got the idea of growing medical marijuana after hearing military veterans say it helped them with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The business would also help the town, which would get a percentage of annual revenues and tax payments, he said.
“We had veterans associations that we’ve supported for years telling us there were benefits to be had,” he said. “We had a farm, and this fits with what the Patton family has been doing for decades. Some people are shocked by it, I suppose. We believe it’s a positive for society and for veterans, and we believe for the town of Hamilton.”
Green Meadows Farm has also applied to open marijuana dispensaries in Southbridge and Chicopee.
Asked how his grandfather and his father, who was also an Army general, would feel about their family farm growing marijuana, he said, “They were men of another era, so they’d probably be taken aback. But at the same time they were adventurous and fearless in their ambition. If it in any way benefited veterans, they’d be first in line.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.