The debate on where adult use marijuana dispensaries should be located in East Boston continued last week during a Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) sponsored meeting regarding a proposal to open such a dispensary in Maverick Square.
Luis Vasco, Steven Vasco, Nick Spagnola, and Julis Soko, owners of East Boston Bloom LLC, gave a presentation on their plans to open an adult use marijuana facility on the ground floor of a building owned by the Vasco family in Maverick Square.
The presentation was very similar to the other five or six adult-use facilities being proposed in the community. There will be top-notch state of-the-art security, a high level of professionalism, and a floor plan that ensures access to the facility is by adults 21 years or older. There will be no advertising, flashy signs or the ability to see the product being sold from the street. In fact, according to Vasco, customers will come in, place an order and the product will be retrieved from a locked vault in the back of the store.
East Boston Bloom’s proposal has gained the attention of many in the community looking for local entrepreneurs to emerge and take advantage of the new emerging business instead of outsiders with deep pockets looking to cash in on the community.
All partners in East Boston Bloom from the Vascos to Spagnola and Soko are longtime Eastie residents with Luis Vasco being a celebrated business owner for the past 15 years. Vasco and his family have run Taco Mex in the square without incident and is a popular destination for thousands of residents.
However, the recurring comment at a lot of the meetings so far goes something like this–“While I voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana for adults I don’t support this location. I just don’t think it is a right fit for a residential neighborhood.”
While the time to oppose the specific zoning laid out by the city that made adult-use facilities a ‘Conditional Use’ after an exhaustive process and numerous public hearings has come and gone some residents here are now left with arguing Eastie is just ‘too residential’ for adult use dispensaries.
At last week’s BPDA meeting several residents argued that an adult-use facility sends the wrong message, isn’t part of their hopes and dreams for Maverick Square, will sully the neighborhood’s reputation as an up-and-coming community, and will force very tough conversations among parents and their children about adult-use marijuana and dispensaries.
While some may have a moral objection to the proposed Maverick Square location, the BPDA has been very clear during meetings like the one last week that the purpose is not to debate the state ballot question or marijuana laws. The meetings are simply meant to see if the proponent will meet certain zoning criteria and address any issues while seeking a Conditional Use Permit.
In the end, cannabis establishments are not forbidden uses in commercial districts like Maverick Square under last year’s Amendment to the Boston Zoning Code.
In fact, cannabis establishments are “Conditional Uses,” which by definition means they are not forbidden under the current zoning code. Proposed cannabis uses within commercial districts throughout the City of Boston do not require a “variance,” which is a higher standard than a conditional use. Conditional Uses in Boston are otherwise an allowed use subjected to conditions.
East Boston Bloom will be seeking a “Conditional Use Permit” (CUP). While both CUPs and variances are granted by the ZBA, a variance is a different request and granted under a different standard than a CUP.
Maverick Square is part of the Neighborhood Shopping Zoning subdistrict – where a cannabis establishment is a Conditional Use–pretty much like a Dunkin Donuts.
With that said, Vasco and company will have to show the ZBA that the specific site in Maverick is an appropriate location for the proposed use as a cannabis establishment.
The ZBA will most likely weigh in if the proposed use adversely affects the neighborhood with the following criteria:
Will the use create a hazard to vehicles or pedestrians?
Will the use create a nuisance? Are there adequate and appropriate facilities provided for the proper operation of the use? If the owners of East Boston Bloom can show a solid plan to address these questions the ZBA will most likely grant them a permit, despite what some in the neighborhood think about adult-use marijuana.