In the packed community meeting room at Curtis Hall, a Community Host Agreement meeting was held on Jan. 24, regarding Core Empowerment’s proposed marijuana establishment at 401A Centre St in Hyde Square. A Community Host Agreement includes language that includes things like the 3 percent tax voted on by the City Council, hours of operation, and security measures, but it does not include the provisos that were laid out by different community groups, according to Ed McGuire of the City of Boston.
McGuire made the purpose of the meeting very clear to attendees. He said that mitigation funds would not be discussed and there would be no voting or approval of any kind. The meeting was solely for the city to “collect as much information as possible about this site,” McGuire said. Then the “ZBA will vote as they see fit.” Community members were welcome to voice their opinions at this meeting, as well as at the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). A date for this project to appear before the ZBA has yet to be set, and the project must appear before the ZBA in order to receive a conditional use permit to operate the business.
Core Empowerment CEO April Arrasate said that they are projecting October as an opening time for the retail store if all goes according to plan.
“I’ve never seen this much mitigation for a 6,000 square-foot space,” said Tom Tinlin of engineering and planning company Howard Stein Hudson. “These stores will become part of the fabric of the community.”
“We want to make sure that we’re dealing with quality-of-life issues,” added Dan Linskey of Kroll Experts, who is the security consultant for Core Empowerment.
Core Empowerment COO Tomas Gonzalez presented the proposal for the retail establishment, which, as previously reported by the Gazette, would be open from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. with an estimated 15-30 customers per hour. The various security measures Core Empowerment would be taking, as well as mitigation efforts within the community and for different neighborhood groups, were also discussed.
After Core Empowerment’s presentation, the floor was open to the public to ask questions and voice concerns. One question that has come up at multiple meetings about this establishment was whether or not Core Empowerment would be using an appointment based system when they first open.
“We will be establishing an appointment-based system during the opening,”—maybe one to three months—Core Empowerment CEO April Arrasate said. She added that it would remain an option for the future as well should the shop be extremely busy on a certain day, they can switch to appointment-only mode to control how many people come into the store.
There were several concerns about parking and traffic, as there have been at other community meetings. One response was from Attorney Mike Ross, who said that people are going to the store that are as close to them as possible, and with locations proposed to open up across the city, people generally will not travel far to get their product. The team also provided those in attendance with information about their traffic mitigation plan, which includes off-site parking, flashing pedestrian beacons, and other measures to reduce traffic on Centre Street.
One community member was interested in the social equity aspect of this establishment, as Core Empowerment has promised to have a Social Justice Museum/Education Center within the retail space. “Core is pleased to be operating in a state which has recognized through legislation the disproportionate impacts of the drug war on certain minority communities,” a brochure from the company reads. “We embrace the opportunity to educate the public on the complex history associated with prohibition and our Social Justice Museum will recognize and memorialize that struggle.”
In addition, “the Core Education Center will host experts and provide reliable programs and information covering law, science, research, medical advances, forms of administration and a host of other cannabis-related issues,” the brochure states.
The community member said that she feels the social equity piece is “fluff,” and wanted to know what the accountability piece is.
“This has been a topic of discussion throughout the entire city,” McGuire said. They “want to have people who are representative of the communities that these stores are in.”
“We wanted to have a home grown, neighborhood folk team,” Gonzalez said. “We are going to hire neighborhood folks and people of color.”
Carmel Levy of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council wanted to know specifics of how the promised extra one percent of revenue would be proportioned. Gonzalez listed some organizations that would be recipients of the money, which include, but are not limited to: Hyde Square Task Force, Blessed Sacrament Church, and Spontaneous Celebrations.
There were several other comments, including a positive one about the flashing beacons that Core Empowerment has promised to install so cars know pedestrians are in the street, and that vacancies are bad for Hyde Square so having this move in would increase foot traffic to other businesses in the area.
“This is the first public step,” Maguire said. Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services Liaison, Alexandra Valdez, took notes at the meeting to compile a list of comments, concerns, and questions from the public. McGuire said that next steps include having a conversation with Alexis Tkachuk, Director of Emerging Industries for the City of Boston, and Chief of Civic Engagement Jerome Smith to let them know what the concerns were from the community and that they are ready to have conversations with Tkachuk regarding a community host agreement.
“Once they are in a good spot specific to that Community Host Agreement… Alexis and our office will reach out to the Inspectional Services Department to let them know that they are ready for a Zoning Board of Appeal date,” McGuire said. McGuire said that they will continue to inform the public as these steps happen, so long as one is signed up for the email list.
Vecinos de Egleston hablan sobre el tema de las drogas
Personal de Gazette
El tema principal de la última reunión de ESNA (Asociación de Vecinos de Egleston Square) fue cómo crear una comunidad más segura y más atractiva,
no sólo para las empresas locales sino también para los residentes que viven en la zona.
Entre los asistentes se encontraban oficiales de la policía de Boston, residentes locales y varios representantes de agencias de salud y vivienda: Rogerson Communities, Dimock Street Community Health Center, Bay Cove, Health Care for the Homeless y Pine Street Inn, así como funcionarios electos Senadora Sonia Chang-Díaz, Concejal del Distrito 6 Matt O’Malley y la Representante del Estado Liz Malia.
El Capitán Greland del Distrito E-13 de la Policía de Boston habló sobre el tiroteo que aconteció el 18 de enero, seguido de una discusión sobre soluciones al consumo de drogas y alcohol diario en la plaza.
“Durante casi dos años, he escuchado continuamente sobre personas que usan la calle para usar drogas o beber, mendigar y acosar.
“No queremos simplemente sacar a la gente, queremos que encuentren los servicios que necesitan”, dijo Alvin Shiggs, de ESAC.
El empresario local Jonathan Watkins se acordó, diciendo que “el problema es que muchas personas se reúnan en la plaza para consumir. Los problemas permanecen mientras la gente está sentada en la plaza todo el día”.
La policía describió cómo están combatiendo el problema de las personas que beben o consumen drogas.
“Muchas personas no quieren ayuda (para mantenerse limpios de drogas), prefieren ser arrestadas”, dijo un oficial. Mencionó que la policía está utilizando la Sección 35 que prefiere obtener tratamiento para las personas sin hogar con un problema de drogas.
El Sargento Messina de la patrulla de bici contó cómo ha formado conexiones con ciertas personas sin hogar en la plaza, y cómo intenta moverlas a los centros de desintoxicación, y luego los alienta a mantenerse limpios con la ayuda de otras organizaciones.
“La Sección 35 es sólo una herramienta para dirigirlos al camino correcto”, dijo Messina.
Chang-Díaz, madre con dos niños, mencionó que, se encuentran agujas usadas en su calle.
“Mi función a nivel estatal observar qué funciona y qué no, y asegurar de que haya fondos para las agencias”.
La representante Malia se acordó, diciendo que necesitamos construir una infraestructura y herramientas para ayudar a las personas.
“Este uso de drogas es una enfermedad”, dijo.
O’Malley preguntó: “¿Cómo podemos encontrar ayuda para estas personas?”
Al final de la reunión, todos coincidieron en que el problema del consumo de alcohol y de drogas es un problema complicado sin solución fácil.
“Necesitamos hablar sobre nuestras preocupaciones y encontrar soluciones. Estos problemas no desaparecerán pronto”, dijo Shiggs. La próxima reunión de ESNA será el 4 de marzo a las 6.30 pm en el YMCA en Washington St.