[Note No. 1: The Buffalo News published an abbreviated version of this post in its April 5, 2021 “Another Voice” column, which expresses my first impressions of a marijuana cultivation-processing-shipping facility proposed by Zephyr Partners for the southern end of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor. You can read it on-line at https://buffalonews.com/opinion/another-voice-south-buffalo-cannabis-facility-not-in-public-s-interest/article_f3402e72-93e6-11eb-99ba-171d122736f3.html. The newspaper’s version does not include what I had intended as the op-ed’s next-to-last paragraph concerning what I consider an ironic coincidence. My post below includes the omitted paragraph, adds a brief discussion on worker safety, and inserts links and images not included in the Another Voice article.]
[Note No. 2: Today’s posting will be the first in a series of at least three pieces I plan to share this week regarding the development of cannabis cultivation facilities in Buffalo, NY. The second in the series will explain why I have concluded that the City of Buffalo’s zoning ordinance does NOT permit a cannabis “grow” facility within its borders. If things go as planned, the third post will discuss how SEQRA provides the investigatory tools to assist the City of Buffalo both in making an informed decision whether or not to add such an activity to its list of permitted uses, and to adequately assess the potential environmental impacts of a particular marijuana grow project.]
Now that New York has enacted its Cannabis/Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA), we can expect Zephyr Partners to revive its application to rezone about 15 acres of land at the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park [BLCP] in South Buffalo as part of its larger plan for a 47-acre, 1.375 million square-foot cannabis cultivation, processing, and shipping facility.
[Click on an image to enlarge it.]
Buffalo’s Common Council will face a major decision with long-term environmental, ecological, aesthetic and social justice impacts.
The proposed project is not an idyllic “pot farm” or attractive “cannabis campus.” Zephyr plans a massive industrial facility. Seven of its buildings would be “high tech greenhouses” 30 feet tall and ranging from 94,000 to 168,500 square feet in area. (A football field covers a mere 57,600 square feet.) This project would loom over the Ship Canal Commons – a public park and nature trail –– reside across Tifft Street from the Tifft Nature Preserve, and be visible from the Seaway Trail, a national scenic by-way.
Unfortunately, Zephyr’s engineering consultant, Wendel, has downplayed the adverse impacts of this project.
Wendel admits that there are “odors associated with processing” cannabis, and claims that Chlorine Dioxide will “neutralize” any unpleasantry. They say nothing, however, about the strong skunk-like odor associated with the growth of the plant. The pervasive and offensive nature of the odors resulting from marijuana cultivation has been acknowledged by entities as diverse as Public Health Ontario, the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration industry, and the Cannabis Industry Times. To address this pervasive problem, the City of Denver has issued Best Management Practices guidelines (BMP) that strongly recommend the use of carbon filtration, not ClO2, as the best odor-control technology for cannabis cultivation. [See, in particular, pages 68-71 in Denver’s October 2020 BMP.]
While Zephyr’s engineers state that, “there will be an increase in electrical demand,” they fail to acknowledge that cannabis cultivation is a very energy-intensive process. According to Denver’s BMP, the energy demands for lighting, HVAC and dehumidification are a leading driver of greenhouse gas emissions, and result in the industry’s sizeable environmental footprint. [See Denver’s BMP, pages 9 et seq.] To allow Zephyr to develop this energy-intense complex would contradict an express goal announced by Buffalo Urban Development Corporation and Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park at the time construction of the roadway and infrastructure the cannabis facility proposes to use was completed: “attracting green companies to the City of Buffalo.”
The brief discussion of impacts on human health provided to the city on behalf of Zephyr was silent on the topic of worker safety. In contrast, an article prepared by the American Institute of Architects’ risk-management arm, AIA Trust, entitled, “Guide to Marijuana Facilities Design,” describes “grow facilities” as having temperature and humidity comparable to indoor swimming pool centers, exposing employees to fungi and other undesirable results. Under the subheading, “Worker Safety,” the article states: “At marijuana grow facilities, workers are also subject to chemical exposure from fertilizers and pesticides, from sulfur dioxide as a result of fumigation, and from carbon dioxide asphyxiation.” See AIATrust Guide-Marijuana-Facilities-Design.]
Coincidentally, Wendel was the landscape architect for the Ship Canal Commons. The firm’s website describes the Commons as “a 22-acre interpretive greenspace” located “at the southern end of Buffalo’s burgeoning Outer Harbor park system.” It characterizes the park’s trails that would adjoin the cannabis facility as “a pastoral passive activity space.” Nonetheless, Wendel’s submission to the City contends, incredibly, that the existence and operation of the massive cannabis facility would not affect the aesthetic or recreational resources at the Ship Canal Commons.
A primary motivating force behind New York’s enactment of a comprehensive law to regulate the adult-use of marijuana is a desire to create a social and economic equity program to assist individuals disproportionately impacted by cannabis enforcement that want to participate in the industry. Allowing Zephyr Partners – headed by Brad Termini, son of developer Rocco Termini – the huge competitive advantage of operating such a massive cannabis production facility would neither further MRTA’s goal, nor enhance our environment.
With All Due Respect,
Arthur J. Giacalone