Lee voters changed marijuana bylaws and short-term rental regulations at the town meeting

Voters gathered in the Lee High School auditorium signed the fiscal year 2025 operating budget of $23 million, an increase of approximately $1 million over the previous year’s expenditures.

Lee residents also passed amendments to city zoning bylaws that will tighten regulations on the marijuana industry.

Elected board member Gordon Bailey told the gathering he lives next door to Lee’s only outdoor cannabis facility.

“I can’t tell you how many complaints I get, how many calls we get and how much my wife and I smell this smell,” he said. “And there’s one reason why I wanted it… There’s actually two reasons why I did it, I wanted to rethink it. First of all, I don’t want to impose an odor that they clearly can’t regulate, even though they are indoors and claim they can, on any other area of ​​the city. I just don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think it would be fair for me to sit here and know something like this was going to happen in another area.

The bylaw changes will limit cannabis cultivation facilities in Lee to just one, while non-marijuana establishments will be limited to 11 of the 14.

“When this took place, the cannabis commission had a number of rules and regulations that had changed fundamentally,” Bailey said. “The city could enter into agreements with the hosts and get money from the growers to offset some of the possible impacts that we might have in the community – And not like Great Barrington, we actually said every year what they were and how we thought it affected this situation. “So I don’t think we would be open to any refund requests because we all agreed there were impacts.”

In a trend across the commonwealth, two cannabis companies are suing Great Barrington for $6 million, citing the city’s failure to document its impact on the community.

“But now the cannabis commission has changed all the rules,” Bailey continued. “It was almost like a bait and switch at the state level and then everything disappeared. We can’t make these kinds of deals anymore, and when it comes to smell, if we allow it somewhere, our city won’t even have the right to decide whether it stinks or not. They actually send someone from Boston from the cannabis commission to decide if the product isn’t too smelly.

The odor emanating from marijuana facilities was removed from a separate category under voter-approved bylaw changes.

“The odor is being changed to be consistent with other odor regulations because the state no longer allows the city to treat them differently regarding odors,” explained City Administrator Christopher Brittain.

Lee voters also approved changing zoning regulations around accessory dwelling units and short-term rentals.

“We recently adopted an accessory dwelling unit bylaw, we recently adopted a short-term rental bylaw, and at our last meeting there was a discussion about the interplay between the two,” said planning board member Peter Bluhm. “The issue was if you got an additional apartment in your home, either attached or detached, kind of like a backyard so to speak, when can you use your main property or ADU as a short-term rental? “

Bluhm explained to residents that the amendment would facilitate the coexistence of dueling regulations.

“We propose changing the first solution and allowing the rental of STRs where the ADU is part of the main building,” he said. “In other words, what I call a mother-in-law apartment can be rented as a short-term rental. We do not believe this will significantly impact housing affordability in Lee.”

The move comes with caveats to address the ongoing housing shortage plaguing Berkshire County.

“If the proposed STR rental is for a primary home and there is a separate ADU in the backyard, neither unit may be rented as a short-term rental,” Bluhm said. “We did this to protect the availability of long-term rental properties in the city, believing there is a shortage of long-term rentals.”

Lee will hold its annual municipal elections on Monday.