The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) met virtually on December 22 for their last meeting of 2020, where members discussed a proposal for an adult-use cannabis shop at 1589 Columbus Ave, as well as heard updates from committees.
Marcus Johnson and Michael Pires of KG Collective presented the cannabis shop proposal, which they said will be a “spinoff” of their existing smoke shops in Mission Hill and Cambridge that sell apparel and tobacco as well as cannabis accessories.
“Mike and I have been through a couple of these conversations,” Johnson said of the public cannabis meetings, adding that they were prepared to address some common concerns heard so far.
He said that the goal of the dispensary is to “build off the basis of the existing brand,” called Kush Groove, that exists in Mission Hill and Cambridge.
He said that “we have a lot of retail experience under our belt,” including with a shop that only allows those 21 and above to enter, as the proposed cannabis store will also be.
The proposed shop on Columbus Ave. is a “two to three minute walk from Jackson Square T station,” he said, and a 10 year lease has been secured at the location, which he said is compliant by standards from both the City and the State.
“Michael and I are certified Economic Empowerment status with the Cannabis Control Commission,” Johnson said, which means their applications has priority for review. After receiving all approvals, they hope to open the shop by the summer or fall of 2021, he said.
The building for the shop is around 3,500 square feet with “not much open space,” Pires said, and there will be a wheelchair lift for accessibility in the shop.
Like other approved and proposed shops, once a person enters into the vestibule, their ID will be checked. Pires said that the “vestibule can house comfortably 10 people or so,” and will feature art by local artists. There will be no open windows so nothing happening inside can be viewed from outside the shop.
Pires said that IDs will be verified a second time before a person can enter the sales floor, and all product will be stored behind the registers. There will be eight registers, and the rest of the floor plan includes office space, a break room, and the receiving area. The shop will also feature a Kush Groove retail shop inside for people to purchase cannabis accessories.
On the exterior of the building, he said that stucco will be applied, windows will be replaced, and rain slats will be installed. Cameras and lighting will also be installed on the exterior.
A small sign that must be approved by the Inspectional Services Department will also be installed on the outside of the building, but it will be “nothing extravagant,” Pires said.
Pires said that this presentation is the fifth one the two have made to the community for this proposal, so they have gathered some of the major concerns they have heard so far.
“We want to maintain the integrity and safety of the community,” he said, and there are “various studies that show a decline in crime in areas that have recreational cannabis dispensaries.” He said that there will “always” be security onsite for this location.
The building will have 24 hour surveillance both indoor and outdoor, as well as “high tech security systems.” All product will be secured in a vault during non-business hours, Pires said, and there will be a “minimum of at least two security guards.”
He said that the two have “experience with not allowing youth in our businesses,” and no loitering or smoking in public places will be allowed.
He said that issues around parking and transportation were also brought up by neighbors. The shop is located “less than 500 feet” from the Jackson Square T stop, and is also accessible by the 22, 29, and 44 bus lines, as well as Bluebikes.
There is a car loading area on the side lot as well as short term bike parking planned on site for the shop’s staff, he said. The team is also “exploring discussions with the adjacent property owner for expanding parking options.”
As for the team’s commitment to the community, Pires said that there is a diversity and inclusion plan, as well as plans to hire from the community with a focus on Boston residents, minorities, and women. They also plan on supporting organizations like Women With Purpose, Minorities for Medical Marijuana, and Beat the Odds, Inc., he said.
JPNC member Gert Thorn expressed concerns about the lack of a parking study, and said it needed to be done by a professional, as he believes customers need a place to park while they are shopping at the dispensary.
Johnson reiterated that the team has been having conversations with Urban Edge, which owns the abutting building, but nothing has been made official yet. He said that the order-ahead model being used by currently open dispensaries has been a success, and he anticipates many people continuing to take advantage of that, limiting people’s time inside the dispensary.
JPNC member Michael Reiskind said that he does not want the building to “look like a blank industrial building,” so he suggested putting something in the windows that looks interesting but still doesn’t allow people to see inside. The team said they would speak with Urban Edge and see what their design is so it could potentially be complemented by the dispensary.
After further discussion, the JPNC ultimately voted to submit a qualified letter of non-opposition to Councilor Matt O’Malley that is subject to the “zoning process and the rest of the public process,” as well as taking a look at the host community agreement and how the community can be more involved in that. The letter will also include some of the outstanding concerns the organization has surrounding parking and other details of the proposal.
The JPNC voted to approve letters of support for both the change of affordability for the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation’s Call-Carolina project, and the proposed 5-story building at 3371 Washington St. Both matters were previously discussed by the committee and reported on in the Gazette.
Zoning Committee Chair Dave Baron reported on and the committee voted on three different zoning matters that the committee heard in December.
The first was for a proposal at 15 Nira Avenue to do a gut renovation of the existing single family building with no change in use or footprint. He said that there was no opposition at the committee meeting, and the full JPNC voted to approve the proposal.
At 8 Robeson St., the proposal was to add a third unit to the existing two family home, as well as construct dormers and add living space int he basement with sprinklers at all levels. Baron said that the project was proposed by a “developer who does projects all around the city,” and Zoning Committee member and architect Kendra Halliwell liked the design. The JPNC voted to approve this proposal as well.
At 49A Walk Hill St., the proposal was to construct a three unit building with three off street parking spaces. Baron said that “people were generally favorable” of this proposal, but there was also pushback, “particularly from Kendra Halliwell.” He said that most buildings on Walk Hill St. do not comply with the setback, so the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) will “establish a modal setback,” Baron said, and ISD “determined they were compliant with the modal setback,” but “Kendra and others felt it should be pulled back a little more from the street,” Baron said. This proposal was also approved by the full JPNC.
Baron also mentioned 97-99 Williams St., which came before the Zoning Commission in early December and sparked a lengthy process discussion with the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association. There were still many outstanding concerns that some neighbors had regarding this proposal, so Baron said it will return before the Zoning Committee in January.