Chelsea Entrepreneurs Challenging Zoning Ideas Around Marijuana

Two Chelsea residents looking to break into the recreational cannabis industry in Chelsea are challenging the ideas behind the zoning regulations set by the City – regulations that bar such establishments from the Broadway business corridor and relegate them to expensive industrial locations in the city.

Chelsea has been known to be quite progressive when it comes to permitting and welcoming the marijuana industry, but the zoning regulations set more than a year ago required that any marijuana businesses be located in the industrial or shopping center districts.

Ola Bayode and Kyle Umemba, both from Chelsea, are questioning the zoning regulations for marijuana establishments – saying they should be allowed in the downtown area to help local residents and people of color to break into the industry. They said they believe retail marijuana could help to revive the downtown area, and they believe the current zoning unintentionally sets a barrier too high for locals to overcome.

That limits them to the Produce Center, Eastern Avenue or Parkway Plaza, and many in the City have postulated that it has excluded local people unintentionally from being able to participate or profit from this new industry.

The Chelsea City Council had just such a discussion earlier this year, asking if it were possible to set aside licenses for residents who might qualify in the future – that coming because most of the City’s licenses were being gobbled up by big-money interests from out of town, and sometimes out of state.

Now, add Chelsea residents Ola Bayode and Kyle Umemba to those critics.

Both are young professionals working regular jobs, but with a hope on the side that they could establish their own business in Chelsea within the emerging cannabis industry. Being right at the nexus of Boston and Somerville (and with Everett and Revere having prohibited marijuana shops), they felt the downtown area was a prime location.

Then they found out about the zoning restrictions, and found it nearly impossible to draw the interest of investors to be able to afford the buildout of a place in the industrial areas.

“For us, we can’t even find a place,” said Bayode. “The one place we did find was on Broadway and Congress. It was a great location and we went to the City and found it wasn’t allowed. We believe the City Manager and the City Council need to think five to 10 years ahead…Our demographic is not Chelsea residents but people who live in One North and upcoming new Forbes development – people new to Chelsea. We want to provide a premier boutique opportunity here…This is a critical time. This game is the first three years and who is able to navigate the waters early will prevail. It’s hard to grip and replace the incumbent business. That is why it’s so important to create a business friendly environment that is helpful to local residents. Right now is the time for that. Later will be too late.”

Bayode said they believe that retail marijuana would fit really well with the City’s idea for reviving the downtown. Umemba said it is proven that such establishments are more safe because of required security, and the foot traffic brings vibrancy to the areas. Having them walled off, both said, misses a great opportunity to bring people to the business district, and also to help local business-people get into the industry.

“The build-out cost in the industrial areas are so expensive,” said Bayode. “Spaces on Broadway are retail ready. They are made for this. It’s also hard to attract any investors because locating in an area like that doesn’t seem as credible.”

Umemba said he believes the zoning now creates a barrier to local people and people of color – maybe even those who have marijuana convictions and are encouraged by the state to get involved in the industry.

“There’s so much investment that can be brought into the downtown,” he said. “The zoning there now creates an extremely large barrier for individuals. We’re young guys who went to college and now we work. We have middle-class jobs. We want to break into this industry in Chelsea, but the way it’s set up creates an unfair playing field…and Chelsea is progressive compared to others and we still don’t have an equal playing field.”

Both said they plan to talk with elected officials and City leaders over the summer to see if there is room to make such zoning changes – perhaps allowing a few licenses to be located in the downtown and reserved for Chelsea residents.

“If there are four or five at least have one or two for Chelsea people,” Bayode said. “It shouldn’t all be big companies from the outside.”

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Here Comes Herbie! : Chelsea Legend Celebrates His 80th Birthday

Happy 80th birthday, Herbie Kupersmith.

A huge crowd is expected to be on hand when Chelsea honors one of its most prominent and philanthropic individuals on July 27 at the Saul Nechtem Gymnasium.

And what they will be celebrating is not only Herbie Kupersmith’s milestone birthday but all the good deeds that Herbie has done in a life well lived.

Herbie’s proud family, his wife, Cookie, daughters, Karyn, Stacey, and Marci and grandchildren, Michael, Jackie, and Colin head the list of guests that will travel far and wide to be at the party.

Guidance From his Mother and Four Valuable Mentors

Herbie Kupersmith moved from Brooklyn to Chelsea with his mother, Sally, when he was two-and-half years old.

“We lived on 13 Michael’s Place, which was off Williams Street,” said Herbie, an only child. “We were 35 feet away from the Chelsea Dump.”

Four highly respected Chelsea men would become Herbie’s “mentors.”

“Hugh J. McLaughlin, the former mayor, Julius Zeff, teacher and basketball coach, Paul “Choc” Glazer, community leader and head of the YMHA, and Harry Coltun, legal counsel for the Mass. House of Representatives – those four people, along with my mother – made it possible for me to be the person I am today,” said Herbie.

Herbie began attending the Walnut Street Synagogue as a young boy and was bar mitzvahed there in 1952. It was the beginning of his lifelong connection and support of the shul. Through the years Herbie has been instrumental in fundraising and helping the historic shul remain in operation.

What Herbie remembers most about his bar mitzvah was the advice he received from his mother in the form of three letters she had handwritten to him.

“Never drink the cup dry – leave some for other people,” recalled Herbie. “No. 2 was, if you’re going to do something, do it because you want to do it, not because you want to get accolades. And No. 3, my mother wrote, ‘I want you to be a giver, not a taker.’”

Herbie developed a love of sports at a young age. He was the starting guard for the Williams Junior High School basketball team that won 27 games in a row. He later played basketball at Chelsea High School for Coach Saul Nechtem.

Success in the Business World

After high school Herbie took a job at Nunn Bush selling shoes at Kennedy’s and Filene’s.

He had other jobs in sales before taking a position at Bobbie Brooks, a junior sportswear company.

With his magnetic personality, charisma, style, street smarts, common sense, honesty and integrity, Herbie set sales records and took over the entire Boston territory. He remained at Bobbie Brooks for 25 years.

All About Family

He met his future wife, Cookie, on a blind date and they were married in May, 1965.

They began their life together in Malden and moved to Marblehead in December, 1965. They have lived in the town ever since.

The Kupersmiths have three children, Karyn, Stacey, and Marci, all of whom are college graduates. Two of the Kupersmith grandchildren, Michael Walsh and Jackie Walsh, are graduates of Brown University. A third grandchild, Colin Walsh, is a student at Elon College in North Carolina.

A Party for Herbie That is Also a Testimonial

The upcoming birthday party will be a testimonial in many ways, with so many people wanting to thank Herbie for the help and support he has given them in so many ways.

The student-athletes like former Marblehead and Stonehill College basketball standout David Siggers, the coaches like John DiBiaso, the members of the congregation at Walnut Street Synagogue, the business associates, the friends like lifelong buddy Lennie Nelson, the co-chairs of planning committees like the great Minna Karas-Marino, and the city officials like Leo Robinson – they’ll all be there to say “Thank you, Herbie,” for being such a positive, uplifting presence in my life.

Rita’s will cater the gala affair. Comedian Brad Mastrangelo will perform and DJ George Athas will provide the musical entertainment. Former City Manager Jay Ash will be one of the speakers during the program.

“It should be a nice evening,” said Herbie humbly.

True to Herbie’s giving nature, all donations from the birthday party will go toward a scholarship fund for Chelsea students.

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City Budget Request Submitted and Sits at $181.5 Million

City Manager Thomas Ambrosino presented a city budget just short of $181,500,000 for Fiscal Year 2020 to the City Council Monday night.

The proposed budget funds city expenditures at $86,095,981 and the schools at $95,391,784 for a total budget of $181,487,765. This budget is about $6.5 million more than the FY19 budget, an increase of 3.71 percent.

“The FY20 budget continues support for many programs we have implemented over the past few years,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the City Council.

The City Manager is proposing full funding for social services programs in the downtown, including the Navigators and Youth Navigator program. The Health and Human Services budget also includes a new social services contract to support the ISD housing program.

The budget does include new positions in three city departments — E-911, DPW, and Elder Services — and an increase from a part-time to a full-time position in the Licensing Department. The E-911 increase, a total of three new full-time positions, follows a personnel review by the department’s new director.

Increases in the DPW include personnel for a new 311 system as well as a group of new hires required for the city to operate its own Water and Sewer Department.

The FY20 budget includes funds in salary reserve to cover the anticipated costs of ongoing union negotiations with City Hall employees. With the exception of the police and fire union contracts, all municipal union contracts expire on June 30 of this year.

•In other business, the Council approved an order proposed by councillors Giovanni Recupero, Enio Lopez, Luis Tejada, and Damali Vidot requiring that all street cleanings should be limited to the same amount of time in every street. Lopez and Recupero both noted that residents who live in areas where they have to move their cars for five hours for street cleaning face greater hardship than those where street cleaning is limited to two hours.

•The council also held a public hearing on zoning amendments that will allow for outdoor dining and improved signage and facades in the city.

Several local business owners and city officials spoke in support of the zoning amendments, noting it would improve the look of the downtown and make for a livelier, safer city.

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License Commission Approves License for Carnival at Chelsea Commons

The carnival is coming to Chelsea.

On Wednesday, April 3, the Licensing Commission approved a four-day license for New Hampshire-based Fiesta Shows to hold a four-day carnival on the Chelsea Commons this spring.

During the short public hearing to approve the license, Chelsea Police Captain Keith Houghton said the City’s public safety agencies have never had an issue with Fiesta Shows. The company also runs events nearby in Revere and Lynn, among other communities.

At-Large City Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he’s had experience with Fiesta Shows owner John Flynn in the past, and that Flynn has always run a tight and secure ship with his shows. In addition, Avellaneda noted that Fiesta Shows will make a donation to the City’s summer jobs program.

Licensing Commissioner Roseann Bongiovanni said she did have some concerns about the carnival operating until 11 p.m., especially on Thursday night.

Flynn said while the license has the closing time at 11 p.m., festivities and rides typically wind down around 10 p.m., giving police time to sweep the area by 11 p.m. Music and amplification is usually shut down at 9 p.m., he added.

•In other business, the Commission denied a permit that would have allowed for Friday night social events at the Rincon Hondureno Function Hall at 194 Broadway. Commission members and City officials expressed concern that the social night would effectively turn the function hall into a nightclub.

•The Licensing Commission also approved a liquor license transfer for La Esquina Mariachi Restaurant at 170 Washington Ave., the former site of the Plaza Mexico restaurant.

The pastor and parishioners from the neighboring church expressed concerns about the new restaurant, given their experience in the past.

While the Commission approved the license, members asked that the owners are mindful of the past history at 170 Washington Ave.

“You need to be very conscious of the environment you are stepping into,” said Licensing Commission Chair Mark Rossi. “Please don’t disappoint us.”

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New Broadway Sign and Design Guidelines Head to City Council for Review

New Broadway Sign and Design Guidelines Head to City Council for Review

Dr. Deborah Wayne’s optometry shop has been on Broadway in one way or another since 1936, but in 2019 she’s hoping that new City guidelines and a store improvement program will help her shop – and others around it – catapult into the new century.

“You want to see quality businesses and you want them to look like quality businesses,” she said. “I think it’s a fabulous idea. It’s an old storefront. I have a storefront that doesn’t have any grates. We’ve been operating in one location or another on Broadway since 1936 and we’ve never had a grate. I’d do anything to get the grates off the businesses on Broadway. I think they’re ugly. I’m hoping that these regulations go through so I can take advantage of the program. I don’t want to take action and build something that isn’t in compliance. I’m ready to rip the front off my store. I can’t wait.”

She shares the enthusiasm of most of the business community on Broadway, who wholeheartedly support a set of design guidelines for the corridor, as well as a storefront improvement assistance program.

Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney has proposed the regulations this spring to the Planning Board, and had a hearing on April 1. They will have a stop at the City Council again with a ruling promised in May.

“The goal is to be attractive and be maintained and lit well,” she said. “It’s also transparency of the windows. We’re telling folks not to have the big frosted glass and we would like the business to take down the big metal grates. In a lot of cases, they aren’t necessary because it can done other ways. We can meet the goal of safety and meet the goal of feeling safe and having an attractive façade.”

One of the problems, she said, is that the regulations for signage and façade improvements are woefully outdated – in some cases not allowing simple things like a blade sign. A blade sign is a suspended sign that faces those walking on the sidewalk. Because of the outdated regulations, she said, many store owners are hesitant to make upgrades that could be a code violation.

“The downtown has always been a bunch of things, but the rules never changed so it means the businesses can’t update or maintain their facades,” she added.

Alberto Calvo of Stop & Compare Supermarket said they improved their façade and sign a few years ago, and it made a huge difference. He’s excited to see that happen throughout the business district.

“We’re absolutely excited to see movement toward the revamping of sign ordinances,” offered Calvo, also executive vice president of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. “A few years ago, we at Stop & Compare in Chelsea invested significantly to improve our building’s façade and to install updated, modern signage. It has made a marked, positive difference in our foot traffic and sales at that location, and I very much want to see other businesses in the Downtown corridor benefit from these kinds of improvements.”

Chelsea Chamber President Joseph W. Mahoney added, “We do get member businesses, and non-members, too, asking whether there are programs to assist business owners to fund signage and façade improvements. For façades, we know that there is a small program to be made available, but the roll-out of the façade program has been at least a couple of years in the making. Our understanding is that there may also be a cost-sharing program for signage as well. The new signage ordinances still need to be passed by the City Council, so we’ve been telling businesses to sit tight, but be ready. We’ve been saying the same thing to our member and non-member businesses in the signage business. We suggested to Craig Murphy, owner of our member Cambridge Reprographics, start talking to people now.”

“I think businesses are most excited about the potential return of blade signs,” Mahoney elaborated, “those that are perpendicular to the building.” Newburyport’s shopping district is full of those signs.

When one drives down its streets, one can see the businesses’ signs before accidentally passing them. Pedestrians also can spot their destination from a half-block away.

•Another piece of the regulations addresses outdoor or sidewalk dining – which was pioneered by the Ciao! Market on Broadway two summers ago. It was a success, by most accounts, and Graney said they would like to encourage others to try it.

First, however, they wanted to put some standards in place.

The regulations would only allow such dining on sidewalks and they would have to be immediately in front of the business. The furniture would have to be matching and of a high quality. There would have to be a safety plan, and businesses would be responsible for the area. No alcohol service would be allowed for the time being.

Seasonal heaters for outdoor dining are also being considered.

“Realistically, there’s not a lot of space,” she said. “Downtown, where this works, it’s two or three tables or six people. It’s similar to what Ciao! Did on their pilot.”

Addressing the proposed sidewalk dining ordinance, Chamber Executive Director Rich Cuthie was slightly more cautious.

“Edson and Marvin from Ciao Pizza definitely have been the market movers on this and need to be applauded,” he said. “They put in the work and time with the City to test it out. But let’s say it’s a nice summer evening and you and I wanted to have a beer and split a plate of nachos al fresco at a local restaurant on Broadway; maybe an after work meeting or just something social. We sit down at the table and chairs on the sidewalk and then are told, ‘No, sorry. No alcohol is allowed outside.’ Like many people, we’re just going to get up, apologize, and either go to the inside of that restaurant, or another restaurant, or worse, decide to move our meeting or dinner to another town.”

Cuthie said there is no compelling argument for a business owner to make the investment in tables, chairs, and staffing while also having to insure against additional outdoor liabilities if the potential revenues to offset those costs are not there.

“No mistake,” Cuthie continued, “we’re happy and appreciative that the City is moving to try to formally create a path to outdoor dining, but without beer, wine, and cocktails—which by the way are a restaurant’s highest margin offerings and offset food costs, we’re missing the mark and I have to reserve judgment on the initiative’s ultimate success. I don’t want Chelsea to always be 10 years behind other communities. We need proper updating now so that people will say, ‘It’s a beautiful evening, let’s have some margaritas and good Latin food in Chelsea tonight. We’ll decide where we want to eat when we get there, because there are so many outdoor dining choices.’”

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School Committee Passes Budget Without Majority

School Committee Passes Budget Without Majority

The School Committee passed a $95.4 million School Budget last week, but it was passed with less than a majority of the total number of nine committee seats.

The budget, which passed with a $1.9 million funding gap that led to the elimination of 10 teaching positions, was approved by a 4-2 vote.

School Committee members Rosemarie Carlisle and Frank DePatto voted against the budget, while board member Jeanette Velez and Chair Richard Maronski recused themselves from the vote, citing relatives who work for the School Department. Last week, Julio Hernandez resigned from the Committee and his seat has yet to be filled.

School Committee members and administrators said it has been a long struggle to present a budget that attempts to meet the needs of the Chelsea schools.

Supt. Mary Bourque and City Manager Thomas Ambrosino were among those who noted that falling enrollments in the Chelsea schools, as well as an antiquated state funding formula that underfunds urban communities such as Chelsea, were the main culprits in the budget cuts.

“I’ve spent a lot of the time with the superintendent trying to provide city support for the budget,” said Ambrosino. “The City is really trying to do its fair share.”

That included the City providing an additional $1.5 million to the schools to address budget shortfalls.

“Every new tax dollar I can raise in Fiscal Year 2020 is going to the School Department,” said the city manager.

Regardless of how the School Committee ended up voting on the budget, Ambrosino said the $95.5 million figure is the figure he would present to the City Council as the school share of the overall City Budget.

“The budget (Bourque) presented is fair and reasonable,” said Ambrosino.

Once the budget is approved, Ambrosino said attention should be turned towards advocating for change to the Chapter 70 state education funding formula on Beacon Hill.

Bourque said she agreed that the time is now to fix the state funding formula, noting that Chelsea schools will be underfunded $17 million by the state.

The other factor leading to cuts in the budget is falling enrollment, Bourque said. Between January of 2018 and January of this year, she said Chelsea schools have lost 217 students. That is part of a larger trend of falling enrollment over nearly a decade, according to the superintendent.

Carlisle voted against the proposed budget, but said the problem with the $95.4 million figure laid not with the City, but with the state.

“The problem is with the state,” said Carlisle. “They are not doing the right thing, and we have to send them a message.”

School Committee member Ana Hernandez backed the budget, but said it wasn’t a decision made lightly.

“The votes we make are very hard,” she said. “This budget is what we dread every year. We have to make a decision for the best of the entire school system.”

But for DePatto, further cuts to teaching positions was a bridge too far to support the FY ‘20 budget. He said the schools laid off seven teachers in 2017, 20 in 2018, 10 in 2019, and have projected another 10 for 2020.

“Forty seven teachers and 25 paraprofessionals,” he said. “When is it going to stop? I can’t vote for this budget (when) I don’t support these cuts.”

School Committee member Yessenia Alfaro-Alvarez voted in support of the budget, stating that it was in the best interest of the City’s students to pass the budget, and also noting that Chelsea is hamstrung by declining enrollments and inequities in the state funding formula.

•In other business, the Committee voted to forgo School Choice for the 2019-20 school year.

•The School Committee also approved a field trip to New York City for high school and middle school REACH students to participate in the Andover Bread Loaf Writing Conference in May.

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Dr. Jeffrey Benecchi Continues Family Tradition

Dr. Jeffrey Benecchi Continues Family Tradition

When it comes to dentistry it seems that the apple does not fall far from the tree and Dr. Jeffrey Benecchi, DMD is living proof.

Sure he could have become an environmentalist, he graduated from Bates College with a degree in environmental science and economics, but it was the influence of his father John, also a dentist, and grandfather Leo, a physician in Revere, who steered him toward dentistry and to being a 2009 graduate of the Tufts Dental School.

“I think it’s in our family history. I always had it in me with my father being a dentist,” Benecchi said from his office at 140 School St. He loves dentistry from the hands-on nitty gritty parts of the business to the patient interaction. His father John graduated in 1976 from Tufts Dental School and started his practice a couple years later

Today Jeffrey runs the practice by himself since his father retired at the end of last year. He has 10 employees. Most who also had worked for his father.

“He’s still says hi to everyone,” Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey has always liked working with his hands and he felt dentistry was a natural fit. He liked being around the patients and see what his father was working on. Not the corporate model of dentistry but a hands-on approach.

“I still like that personal touch,” he added.

“It’s been a good job to help people and be able to see things done with the artistry of dentistry,” Jeffrey said. “I like everything there is to do with dentistry.”

The Benecchi dental practice specializes in general dentistry for everyone from children to the elderly.

“Basically we offer what a lot of people need to have done.” Jeffrey said.

Keeping up with the latest technology, Dr. Benecchi uses digital scanners to avoid goopy mouth molds for dental impressions.

There are also digital x-rays and cameras now that they use when working with a local laboratory for caps and crowns.

He noted that he will also be having a couple of associates added to the practice to help with an increasing patient load.

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Appreciation – Remembering Joanne Tarason

Appreciation – Remembering Joanne Tarason

The city is mourning the loss of Joanne Tarason, a popular local business owner and highly respected community leader who touched the lives of many residents with her kindness and generosity.

Mrs. Tarason died on Tuesday. She was 77.

Joanne Tarason owned Coprico Printing (formerly Sir Speedy) at 40 Washington Ave., located across the street from Chelsea City Hall. She was also a long-time member of the Rotary Club and the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce.

Mrs. Tarason donated her services to many local organizations. Though she received numerous awards in appreciation of her generous contributions and volunteer services, she always deflected the praise to others and tried to stay out of the spotlight.

“Joanne helped out so many groups in a quiet and unassuming way,” said Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson. “She never sought recognition for her many kind deeds and generous assistance. Chelsea has a lot a great woman, community leader and friend.”

Councillor-at-Large Calvin Brown said Mrs. Tarason was “one of Chelsea’s unsung heroes.”

“Joanne did so much for so many and was admired by all,” said Brown. “It was always a pleasure to see her at local social events. We have lost a great friend to Chelsea.”

Mrs. Tarason was a goodwill ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club, always lending her support at installation of officers dinners, community fundraisers, and the Chamber’s $10,000 Pot-O-Gold Dinners.

But her reign of kindness and premier platform of helpfulness was at her local business where residents would often stop in just to say hello. She was meticulous in her work and customers came from far and wide to have their printing jobs, large and small, done at her business.

Mrs. Tarason stayed ahead of the technological advances in the printing business, acquiring new skills and equipment to meet the requests of her large clientele.

The Chelsea City Council will pay tribute to Mrs. Tarason with a moment of silence at its Feb. 25 meeting.

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Dealing with Details: License Commission Works out the Logistics of Marijuana Shops

Dealing with Details: License Commission Works out the Logistics of Marijuana Shops

The Licensing Commission has continued a hearing on special additional rules for marijuana establishments to its March meeting.

The commission opened the public hearing at its meeting on Thursday, Jan. 17.

While the hearing did not generate much controversy, commissioners did agree that they wanted more time to consider several issues, including language limiting where retail marijuana shops can be concentrated, and the amount the city will charge for application fees.

“I’d like to see more research and see what nearby cities have done and what their challenges are,” said commission member Roseann Bongiovanni.

Currently, there are three applications in the works for retail marijuana shops in the city. The city will allow a maximum of four retail licenses.

According to the proposed regulation, the Licensing Commission will not issue a license to anyone who has violated Licensing Commission rules and regulations in the past five years. All licenses are subject to zoning approval and state Cannabis Control Commission approval.

The operating hours for retail shops will be limited to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and all signage will have to be approved by the city, according to City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher.

“We are trying to be a little more restrictive now so we don’t have to clean up after the fact, like with liquor licenses,” said Fisher.

The section of the proposed regulations that garnered the most discussion among commission members was one which would limit the concentration of where retail marijuana shops can be located.

Fisher noted that the language included in the draft regulations, limiting retail shops to one per voting district and not within 500 feet of another retail marijuana store, was not included by the legal department. She said it was included because it was a request made during a past public hearing on marijuana regulations.

“We already have a very small area in Chelsea, and retail shops are already restricted to three zones and can’t be within 500 feet of schools,” said Fisher. “It is already quite restrictive of where you can put a facility.”

The city will allow marijuana establishments in the Industrial, Shopping Center, and Business Highway zone.

Licensing Commission Chairman Mark Rossi said he’d like the commission to have more discretion over where facilities can be located.

“Our job is to factor in the input from the community and the licensees,” said Rossi.

Much like it does with liquor licenses, Rossi said the Licensing Commission will be getting input from the community, police and fire departments, and other city officials when it comes to making a final determination on issuing a marijuana license.

“This committee is uniquely situated to make that determination,” he said.

Commission member James Guido said he would like more information on limiting concentration in voting districts before making a final decision on the proposed regulation.

Rossi also said he had questions about the $5,000 application and annual renewal fee for marijuana establishments, stating he would like to see a higher number.

Rossi said the application fees and concentration of locations will be discussed when the hearing is continued at its March 7 meeting.

“This is a big issue that affects everyone,” he said.

•In other business, the Licensing Commission adjusted its penalty for Rincon Latinos restaurant at 373 Washington Ave. In December, the commission suspended the restaurant’s liquor license for eight days spread over four weekends for repeated instances of exceeding its capacity.

Last week, the commission agreed to suspend the license for two weekends in January, as well as for a five-day stretch during the week when a new handicap bathroom will be installed by the restaurant owners.

The new bathroom will allow Rincons Latinos to increase its capacity from 17 to 28 people, according to John Dodge, the attorney representing the owners.

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City Moves to Dismiss Case to Overturn ‘nip’ Ban

City Moves to Dismiss Case to Overturn ‘nip’ Ban

The City of Chelsea has filed a brief with the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) to dismiss the case brought by nine liquor licensees to overturn the ban on small liquor bottles (50 mL), known as nips.

On Dec. 8, in a hearing at the ABCC, the licensees argued their cause.

However, the City has now filed a motion indicating that the ABCC does not have jurisdiction to decide on the challenge of the ban. The case is somewhat groundbreaking because Chelsea is the first municipality to attempt to ban all nip sales. While few communities find nips a plus due to increased litter and public drinking, the sales are strong pieces of business for many liquor stores – including Chelsea. A number of communities and liquor retailers are watching the case very closely to see what they will do in their communities as well.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the key will be whether there is jurisdiction.

“They will decide on that preliminary issue soon,” he said. “If they have jurisdiction, they’ll decide on the issue. If they decide they don’t have jurisdiction, then the ban stands.”

The motion by the City indicates, “The ABCC is not a super-regulatory authority for review of regulations issued by local licensing authorities, and therefore is not the proper forum for Appellants to challenge the regulations.”

One of the other objections in the motion are that the licensees did not appeal the decision until many months later, in September, while the ban started in May.

Chelsea moved last year to institute the ban on nips, and it has been in effect for many months. A second attempt to ban 100 mL bottles of liquor was tabled until the case was heard and decided.

Ambrosino said he has noticed some definite improvements since the ban went into effect.

“I do notice a little difference,” he said. “I think the Downtown Task Force police officers will tell you the same. I think it’s been effective. It’s one piece of many efforts we have in place. There’s a lot of things that contribute to the absence of that problem, including all the social services and resources going on as well.”

The licensees are expected to file their brief in response to the City’s motion to dismiss within the week.

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