The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) met virtually on August 25, where Joseph Lekach of Apothca, Inc. returned with his proposal for an adult use dispensary at 54 Hyde Park Ave., and committee chairs provided updates.
Cannabis Store Proposal
Joseph Lekach, co-founder and CEO of cannabis company Apothca, Inc. came before the Council last month with his proposal for an adult use dispensary at 54 Hyde Park Ave. This month, he came again seeking a letter of non-opposition from the Council.
In 2017, the JPNC provided a letter of non-opposition for medical use at this site, but the addition of adult use requires another letter.
Many operational details were discussed at the meeting last month, and on Tuesday evening, Lekach provided more details on Apothca’s commitment to the community and how common neighbor concerns would be addressed.
A police detail will be at the site “upon opening until such time that a police detail is no longer needed,” according to a slide presented, and quarterly community meetings will be held for the first year, and annually after that. He also said that Apothca will hire locally to the extent the law allows.
Additionally. Lekach said that Apothca will work with the Shattuck Hospital on coordination of hours of operation so disruptions are minimized and “avoid overlap with the time period where patients leave the hospital after receiving their drug treatment,” read a slide.
He also talked about responding to neighbor concerns that have been heard throughout the process so far, which include advocating for a crosswalk to be added across Hyde Park Ave near the dispensary’s location. He also said that a security officer will be on hand to ensure that customers who park illegally will not have access to the dispensary.
Any noise will be mitigated by Apothca, though there is no anticipated noise disruption, he said. Use of public transit will also be incentivized, and medical patients who use public transit will receive a discount. The law does not allow for a discount for adult use purchases, he said. Additionally, financial incentive will be provided to employees who take public transit to work.
He said they don’t expect many car trips, as this is a dispensary focused on the local community and the use of the MBTA.
“Why should the neighborhood council take any position on this now?” asked JPNC member Dave Baron. “There are still a lot of processes that still have to happen.”
Lekach said that this is the first stop in the process as the City wants to see non-opposition from the community before moving forward to Councilor O’Malley.
Baron said he “would not be opposed to some sort of interim” non-opposition for Councilor O’Malley, as he said he appreciates the councilor wanting support from the community before proceeding.
He also said he wants an opportunity for the council to speak on the Host Community Agreement process, as he does not feel it appropriately addresses the local community.
JPNC member Priscilla Yang said that many neighbors were under the impression that this facility was going to be medical only, and she had concerns that people were unaware of the change. She wanted to ensure that people have ample opportunity to voice concerns about all aspects of the current proposal.
“There’s going to be multiple opportunities for community outreach,” Lekach responded, citing the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) and Boston Cannabis Board hearings as chances for people to comment publicly. He said that adult use was not part of their original business plan, but when the adult use facility on Centre St. was approved, “that changed our calculus.”
He said when there is an adult use option, medical patients will prefer to shop there. “It’s just the reality,” he said.
He added the “no one will be able to see what’s going on inside” the facility, and it wouldn’t be open while kids are gathering before school.
JPNC member Max Glikman said that this facility “could improve traffic and flow at the Centre St. location,” citing Core Cannabis, the other dispensary in the neighborhood. “This, from a community-wide perspective, might be easier to handle,” as it places less strain on a single location, he said.
“There needs to be a traffic study done,” said JPNC member Gert Thorn. He mentioned that other dispensaries proposed for the area had provided traffic studies to the council early on in the process. He also shared Yang’s concerns about making sure that neighbors are aware of the change to the project proposal.
He said the traffic study needs to be seen by the JPNC before the project goes before the ZBA. After more discussion, Lekach said that he has “no problem” bringing a full traffic study report to next month’s JPNC meeting.
The Council voted to present a draft letter of interim non-opposition to the adult use proposal that is “based on incomplete information, an incomplete process, [and] maybe says something about the process coming forward,” Baron said. The letter will be presented at next month’s JPNC meeting for a vote.
Zoning Committee Chair Dave Baron reported that a proposal for 12 Everett St. was discussed by the committee at its August meeting. The proposal is to construct a three-story multifamily residential building with seven units and basement parking on the lot that is 13, 231 square feet.
Baron explained that the original proposal called for nine units, and it was then lowered to seven, but at a recent meeting the applicant said that five would be considered.
He said that violations include forbidden use, as multifamily residential is not a permitted use in that area, and there is a lack of frontage for the proposal. There are no dimensional violations on the height, side, or rear yards.
He said that many abutters and other neighbors were very opposed to this proposal, as they felt it was too big and had too many units for the area.
Baron said that the Sumner Hill Association “ changed its position between two meetings,” saying that at first, they supported the neighbors, but at a second meeting they were neutral.
Baron said that “we really try to support the neighbors, particularly when they have legitimate concerns and try to make projects better,” so the recommendation of the committee was to deny the proposal. The JPNC voted with the recommendation.
Education Committee Chair Trevor Wissink-Adams talked about Boston Public Schools’ new phased-in approach to back to school and how the committee plans to help out. He said they discussed ways to make learning pods more accessible to families, but the committee has not had a chance to get together since the final plan was released by the City, so further discussion is to come.
Public Service Committee
Public Service Committee Chair Michael Reiskind spoke about the committee’s continued discussion on how to reform the police, which has been moved to a subcommittee of a few members. He said they will try to get a meeting of this new police reform subcommittee in before next month’s Public Service Committee hearing.
He said that the committee will be discussing things like militarization of the police, police in schools, police overtime, facial recognition use, and use of drones and helicopters by the police.