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.
Rincons Latinos Restaurant on Washington Avenue has been no stranger to appearing before the Licensing Commission over the past several months.
At the Thursday, Dec. 6 meeting, it was a case of enough was enough for the licensing commissioners, as they voted to suspend the 373 Washington Ave. restaurant’s liquor license for eight days. The suspension, largely leveled for repeated instances of exceeding the posted capacity of the establishment, will be served during four weekends over December and January.
A police inspection in October found 42 people in the restaurant, well above the posted occupancy limit of 17. Police officials also claimed there was missing signage and insufficient lighting in the restaurant.
Attorney John Dodge, representing Orlando Pineda of Rincons Latinos, argued that his client is planning to install a second handicap accessible bathroom in the restaurant. That move would double the occupancy limit of Rincons Latinos from 17 to 34, he said.
“That is the only thing that has been reducing the occupancy level in the restaurant,” said Dodge. “It isn’t a safety concern in regard to (the number of people) in the restaurant.”
“It’s just breaking the law and not following rules,” countered Mark Rossi, the Licensing Commission chairman.
Dodge said Pineda is doing his best to run a business and will spend upwards of $7,500 to install the new bathroom to comply with regulations.
“Mr. Pineda has put his life and soul into the place, and he lives right upstairs,” Dodge said.
Dodge also noted that the police withdrew a previous charge against the restaurant from the fall that people were illegally bringing cases of beer into and out of the restaurant.
“Mr. Pineda and his brother Ricardo are trying to do the right thing,” Dodge said. “They are doing their best to increase the occupancy. I question the fundamental fairness (of the charges).”
Commission member James Guido took exception to Dodge’s accusation of unfairness.
“They have had plenty of chances,” he said. “The biggest complaint now is the occupancy and we are going to try to deal with that.”
Commission member and Inspectional Services Director Mike McAteer said he has been dealing with the occupancy issue and plans for an additional bathroom since July with no movement on the issue from the Pinedas.
Rossi said Dodge was basically taking a “no harm, no foul” approach to the occupancy violations and that the Pinedas have not made enough effort to address them over the past six months.
“The explanation has been, ehhhhh, it’s a big enough place and nobody got hurt,” Rossi said. “They have not taken the proper steps to alleviate the matter. Now, you are saying give me more time so I can try to make this right.”
The commission members batted around several possible punishments, from a 30-day license suspension to outright revocation, before deciding on the eight-day suspension meted out over four weekends.
Rossi said if the establishment violates the 17-person occupancy limit before approval for expanding to 34 people, it will be subject to license revocation proceedings.
In other business, the commission took its annual vote to allow extended New Year’s Eve hours to 2 a.m.
The commission also approved giving a six-month extension to Samir, Inc. to find a new location to use a wine and malt beverage license.
It’s the case of the cases of Corona going in and out of Rincon Latino Restaurant.
Following a histrionic licensing commission hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 25 that saw the lawyer for the restaurant’s owners compare the proceedings to those in Russia and referred to the hearing to “a lynching,” the commission continued the hearing until its next meeting next month.
As the last hearing on a busy commission agenda, everything started calmly enough, as the commission heard a police report from officer Augustus Cassuci detailing two incidents he witnessed just outside the Washington Avenue Restaurant on June 22 and 23.
The officer stated that on Friday, June 22, he was passing by 373 Washington Avenue when he saw about 10 people crossing the street, with one carrying a case of Corona beer. The next day, Cassuci said he saw a customer carrying a case of Corona into the restaurant.
Where the hearing raised the ire of attorney John Dodge, who was representing the restaurant, was when Cassuci raised a number of issues at Rincon Latino Restaurant that were not included in the two-paragraph police report.
“On several occasions, there have appeared to be intoxicated patrons in front of the laundromat next door blocking the sidewalk,” said the officer. “Male parties have also been seen urinating on the sidewalk.”
Additionally, police Captain Keith Houghton said the restaurant often appears to surpass its occupancy limit of 17 customers and the curtains of the establishment have been closed, in violation of the law.
Police officials also showed the commission a photo taken from the restaurant’s security camera that they said showed the establishment as being over capacity.
“How am I supposed to represent (the restaurant) when all I have is a two-paragraph police report?” asked Dodge, who asked that the hearing be continued to the commission’s next meeting since evidence was introduced that he had not previously seen.
Dodge said the allegations leveled by the police had nothing to do with the original report of customers taking out or bringing in cases of beer.
“I don’t know what evidence is being presented,” he said. “We were not provided with any photos or any video, and Officer Cassuci is now testifying to public intoxication, urinating on the sidewalks, and closed curtains.”
Licensing Commission Chairman James Guido said a public hearing does not follow the same process as a court hearing and that the information being provided during the hearing was due process.
“Maybe due process in Russia, in America we are given the evidence before a hearing,” said Dodge.
Commission member Roseann Bongiovanni asked for calm, and suggested the commission continue the hearing for one month. The commission approved the continuance, as well as a request that the restaurant provide video of peak hours during the past several weekends to help determine if there has been overcrowding or other issues at the restaurant.
Facing many critics from the public that showed up to speak against two-way Broadway, the City Council on Monday decided to defer any vote and, instead, hold a Committee on Conference to review the matter.
In August, the Traffic Commission voted 5-1 to approve the two-way plan, as well as a spate of many other non-controversial changes to Fay Square, Chelsea Square, Bellingham Square and City Hall Avenue.
Council President Damali Vidot called for the committee, and the Council approved the move. She said they had until Oct. 6 to hold the meeting and to have a vote of the full Council. The City Council must approve all actions of the Traffic Commission, but if they do not do so by Oct. 6, the Commission’s approval will become law.
Many on the Council have not made their opinions known yet, but some have, and ultimately the fate of two-way Broadway will fall on the votes of 11 members of the Council.
Council President Vidot has been critical of the idea, and has particularly disagreed with the planning process that has unfolded over the past two years. In the past, she has been against the change.
Councillor Leo Robinson, however, said this week he is in favor of two-way Broadway.
“I’m a two-way Broadway guy,” he said.
Councillor Joe Perlatonda has also spoke in favor of the plan, and said the one-way plan is dangerous because it calls for cars to park outside of the protected bike lane. He said that would leave those exiting their cars in a dangerous position with oncoming traffic and with oncoming bicyclists.
Meanwhile, Councillor Bob Bishop said he doesn’t buy the idea of two-way Broadway. To this point, he said he isn’t convinced it’s a good change.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Chief Brian Kyes are some of the biggest advocates, and though they don’t have a vote, they have strongly called for the change for months.
Resident Sharleen McLain, however, was one of several residents who said the plan is flawed and has been forced upon the public.
“From the very first it was clear the City Manager and the planners have been pretty bent on getting two-way Broadway,” she said. “They’ve been pretty manipulative in moving forward on this two-way plan. None of these meetings have allowed for meaningful input. It wasn’t until the July Traffic Commission meeting that members of the public were able to speak directly to the plans.”
Said Barbara Richard, “I think two-way Broadway is spot-on dead wrong. Businesses will go under. I also think it hasn’t been a good enough outreach to the community.”
Ambrosino said he is in favor of the two-way plan, but he implored the Council to consider the plan is much more than just the two-way Broadway situation. He said there are many, many more non-controversial changes in the package that people do want universally.
“Much of what is before you is non-controversial,” he said. “Whether it’s Fay Square, Bellingham Square or City Hall Avenue, these provisions have no opposition to the changes.”
The Council will meet next on Monday, Sept. 24, and the Conference Committee will likely take place next week.
One can raise a six-pack to the end of summer if they’re a legal-aged hardworking resident, but one will no longer be able to raise up a 250ml nip bottle due to a continuing voluntary ban by Chelsea liquor stores courtesy of the Chelsea License Commission.
The Chelsea Licensing commission met again on the topic of 250 mL alcohol bottles on Aug. 28 in the Chelsea Public Library to packed room of invested residents, owners, commissioners, and police. They were all there to address the contentious topic of permanently banning 100ml to 250ml bottles and single can/malt bottle beverages.
Following from the initial commission decision to employ a voluntary ban on the June 26, the rare Aug. 28 meeting was an update to see about further action.
Over the summer downtown stores stopped selling nips and voluntarily stopped selling other small bottles as well as two very low-cost liquor brands identified as problematic.
The meeting ended with the resulting community agreeing to maintain a voluntary ban of 100ml and 250ml bottles and new, agreed-upon stipulations for community liquor store owners. The agreement comes on the heels of escalating community tensions with what Chelsea Police have described as “50 or so” individuals who constantly perpetrate public intoxication and littering problems for Chelsea community residents and visitors.
“I can tell you [increasing nip littering] has definitely decreased,” said Chelsea Police Capt. Keith Houghton.
The Chelsea Police Department seemed confident in the immediate results they have witnessed in the following weeks of the proposed ban. However when questioned by License Chair Michael Rossi if the results could be quantified, the police shifted focus and explained they now require a three-hour alcohol safety course.
“I find it really hard to believe there have been no incidents of drunkenness [since the voluntary ban],” stated commission member Roseann Bongiovanni with open skepticism.
Bongiovanni wasn’t the only person in attendance that openly questioned the Police Department’s results and the lasting impression of the ban thus far. Robert Mellion, executive director of the Massachusetts Package Store Association, also made his case in the two minutes allotted for public hearings.
“Less restrictive means have completed your goals,” Mellion stated, continuing “There’s no wall around Chelsea.”
Multiple residents and store owners echoed Mellion’s sentiment, agreeing that a legal ban instead of a voluntary ban infringed upon the rights of residents to legally purchase alcohol and would not begin to fully cover the larger issue at hand, alcoholism. The general sentiment being that there was nothing to stop these individuals from getting the same banned 250 ml bottles from liquor stores in neighboring cities and towns.
Mellion addressed those in attendance by listing the critical steps the License Commission, store owners, and police department should collaborate on together. Accomplishing cooperation by employing a voluntary ban of 100ml bottles, establishing a alcohol beverage training course and certification for liquor store owners, maintaining a do not sell list for specific individuals, along with impeding sales to intoxicated buyers.
It was agreed by the Commission to maintain a voluntary ban instead of a permanent one, keying in on public sentiment to not overextend their legal rights over Chelsea residents’ ability to purchase alcohol and promote community agreement and turnout to these meetings.
The training course has already been attended by all 12 local liquor stores, of which 25 individuals from these stores achieved the needed passing score of 75 or better. The Police Department also stated that seven individuals scored a 100.
The voluntary ban itself has not been enough to assuage some residents’ concerns, though. Edon Coimbra, owner of Ciao! Pizza and Pasta, was not content with the decision to tackle part of what he sees as the bigger problem.
“What are you going to do protect us?” Coimbra questioned, adding, “I cannot be dealing with the same individuals every day.”
The Comission had no response for a full blown initiative in tackling persistent alcoholism in Chelsea, and the voluntary ban will have to be measured through quantitative metrics that Rossi and Bongiovanni both identified a need for.
Alcoholism remains the bigger problem to many local residents like Coimbra who must deal with intoxicated individuals loitering near his restaurant on a daily basis, leaving his restaurant and other areas reliant on police assistance for these incidents.
The Commission will take up the issue again in three months.
The good news for Chelsea residents is that the $5 million redesign of the Broadway business district is moving forward, and a final decision will be made by the City Council about its exact components next month.
And if the vision and innovativeness that City Manager Tom Ambrosino fostered in all parts of Revere can be matched here, then Chelsea residents can expect a Broadway and Bellingham Square bustling with activity and commerce.
But a big question about “The New Broadway” remains: Should the six city blocks from Williams Street to City Hall Avenue be a one-way street (as it exists now and has for many decades) or a two-way street?
The Chelsea Traffic Commission hosted a public meeting Tuesday night at City Hall to hear residents’ opinions about the potential change of Broadway to a two-way street. The Commission is scheduled to vote on the matter at its next meeting before the Council casts the final vote about the entire redesign project, including the traffic plan.
Alexander Train, Chelsea’s assistant director of the department of planning and development, gave a thorough presentation of the re-imagined Broadway project that will totally transform the business district’s intersections, sidewalks, bicycle paths, tree pits, and physical appearance.
“We’ve completed the planning and development portion of the process and we’re now approaching the Traffic Commission to vote and adopt and enact the plan,” said Train. “Their vote will be relayed to City Council, who has the authority to approve or reject their decision.”
Police Chief Brian Kyes spoke in favor of a two-way Broadway, saying it would improve the flow of traffic.
“If a person double parks his vehicle, we have a reason to tow the vehicle ASAP,” said Kyes. “We want to keep the traffic flowing.”
Kyes said he was happy to hear that the intersection of Broadway and Third Street will have traffic lights in the redesign project. “Broadway and Third is probably one of the most dangerous intersections in the entire state,” said Kyes.
He said that when he drove from the police station to City Hall for the meeting, “the backup when I got to Hawthorne Street was incredible, because everybody is making the loop (around Broadway). I think the final [redesign] project makes a lot of sense. I drive down Broadway, Revere all the time and I very, very rarely see double parking there.” Councillor-at-Large Damlili
Vidot said she would like to see the city pay more attention to cleaning up Broadway (such as removing the weed in the metal grates). She also disputed the claim that two-way traffic would curtail double parking and that it would make it safer for pedestrians. She also asked about potential back-ups on the Tobin Bridge and how it would affect traffic on a two-way Broadway.
Vidot said she was not happy with the swiftness of the entire redesign process.
“I urge everyone to just take several steps back and let’s figure out a way to engage more people,” said Vidot. “The way that this process has gone, having a meeting in the middle of summer when the City Council isn’t even meeting – in a hot room where everyone is aggravated and we had to wait 10 minutes to even start the meeting, all of it is just not right.”
Ambrosino, who favors a two-way Broadway, said the traffic configuration should not predominate the discussion of the redesign project.
“That’s only a small part of the reimaging Broadway,” said Ambrosino. “Many of the improvements [to Bellingham Square, Fay Square, City Hall Avenue, traffic signals at dangerous intersections] are happening regardless of which of these two configurations between Williams and Fifth Streets is chosen. Even the one-way configuration is a major improvement over the two-lane speedway that currently exists on Broadway. The two-way configuration is still safer, calmer, and slower for bicylists and pedestrians.”
Ambrosino said the two-way configuration will be “transformative.”
“It will make a difference to the feel and the look of that downtown. It makes it vibrant. It makes it aesthetically pleasing. This will be better for pedestrians, for traffic, and for businesses.”
Rick Gordon, owner of Allen Cut Rite on Broadway, said the No. 1 issue in the downtown district is parking. “I personally prefer a one-way plan for the flow of traffic. The street is much narrower than other communities and I don’t think two-way makes a business more visible.”
Gordon credited the Chelsea Police for their efforts in slowing down motorists and enforcing double-parking restrictions on Broadway. Some residents at the meeting had noted that double-parking is a recurring issue on Broadway.
Councillor-at-Large Roy Avellaneda, whose family owns Tito’s Bakery, asked whether the City Council will have to vote on the redesign project in its entirety as opposed to voting on individual components such as the traffic configuration, and the placement of new bus stops and traffic lights on Broadway.
Following more than two hours of discussion, the one-way/two-way Broadway issue remains a hotly debated one and all eyes will be on the Traffic Commission when it convenes for a vote at its next meeting.WE should be Ambrosino said he favors a two-way Broadway
For the past several days, articles in the national media have reported accusations of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual improprieties with several adults and his criminal violations of the sexual abuse of minors. These alleged actions, when committed by any person, are morally unacceptable and incompatible with the role of a priest, bishop or cardinal.
I am deeply troubled by these reports that have traumatized many Catholics and members of the wider community. In one case involving a minor the Archdiocese of New York, after investigation, has found the accusation to be credible and substantiated. While another accusation concerning a minor is yet to be investigated, the reports are devastating for the victims, their families and for the Church itself. Each new report of clerical abuse at any level creates doubt in the minds of many that we are effectively addressing this catastrophe in the Church.
These cases and others require more than apologies. They raise up the fact that when charges are brought regarding a bishop or a cardinal, a major gap still exists in the Church’s policies on sexual conduct and sexual abuse. While the Church in the United States has adopted a zero tolerance policy regarding the sexual abuse of minors by priests we must have clearer procedures for cases involving bishops. Transparent and consistent protocols are needed to provide justice for the victims and to adequately respond to the legitimate indignation of the community. The Church needs a strong and comprehensive policy to address bishops’ violations of the vows of celibacy in cases of the criminal abuse of minors and in cases involving adults.
My experience in several dioceses and my work with the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors have brought me to this conclusion. The Church needs to swiftly and decisively take action regarding these matters of critical importance. In every instance of claims made by victims of sexual abuse, whether criminal violations or the abuse of power, the primary concern must be for the victim, their family and their loved ones. The victims are to be commended for bringing to light their tragic experience and must be treated with respect and dignity. Recent media reports also have referenced a letter sent to me from Rev. Boniface Ramsey, O.P. in June of 2015, which I did not personally receive. In keeping with the practice for matters concerning the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, at the staff level the letter was reviewed and determined that the matters presented did not fall under the purview of the Commission or the Archdiocese of Boston, which was shared with Fr. Ramsey in reply.
These accusations are understandably a source of great disappointment and anger for many. These cases, involving a cardinal, must be viewed in light of the last two decades of the Church’s experience with clerical sexual abuse. It is my conviction that three specific actions are required at this time. First, a fair and rapid adjudication of these accusations; second, an assessment of the adequacy of our standards and policies in the Church at every level, and especially in the case of bishops; and third, communicating more clearly to the Catholic faithful and to all victims the process for reporting allegations against bishops and cardinals. Failure to take these actions will threaten and endanger the already weakened moral authority of the Church and can destroy the trust required for the Church to minister to Catholics and have a meaningful role in the wider civil society. In this moment there is no greater imperative for the Church than to hold itself accountable to address these matters, which I will bring to my upcoming meetings with the Holy See with great urgency and concern.
When Kim Sinatra appeared beside Matt Maddox for Wynn Resorts’ high-stakes meeting before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) in early May, many thought her to be on shaky ground with the company – though that
day she appeared to be every-bit in control and ingrained in the company.
It is no longer the case.
In a quiet announcement buried within a federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) document, the company announced that Sinatra would be leaving her general counsel post on July 15.
Wynn Resorts did not respond to the Independent for comment on the shake-up, and hasn’t issued any statements or talked to any other media. There has been no reason given for her departure.
Las Vegas media reported that Sinatra would have a severance package of up to $9.5 million.
Wynn Shareholder Elaine Wynn – now the company’s largest single shareholder – has disputed that severance package in media statements.
Sinatra was a powerful force in the early days of Wynn’s entrance into the Boston market via the Everett site. She was front and center during many of the licensing hearings, in particular a very intense deliberating process at the Boston Teacher’s Union Hall in Dorchester in 2014.
During that meeting, Sinatra talked for many nervous moments on the phone with Steve Wynn about whether or not he would commit to additional mitigation measures – that happening in front of the entire room and in front of the competitor, Mohegan Sun.
After brokering that deal, Sinatra emerged from the phone with a ‘yes’ to the commitments, virtually sealing the license for Wynn at the time.
Since those early days, however, Sinatra has not been at the Encore site too often – only during a few permitting meetings and the major Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) meetings.
By Seth Daniel
By most accounts, the order put in by Councillor Giovanni Recupero on Monday night to effectively put term limits on members of appointed boards and commissions in the city would have been voted down in year’s past.
But the new Council has a new outlook, and the order was approved and pushed to a Committee on Conference by a vote of 7-4 on Monday night.
The measure calls for the Council to adopt a policy that would require the Council not to be able to re-appoint any member of a Board or Commission if they have served two consecutive terms already. The provision would only take effect if someone else in Chelsea is willing to serve on the Board. If no one else is interested, then the re-appointment could go through.
“I’m not for anyone serving over and over and over,” said Recupero. “They need fresh ideas. Some of these people on the boards have been there 20 years. Nothing changes with that. It’s all just the status quo. I’m even for term limits on the Council. I don’t think anyone should serve more than 10 years. It should be 10 years and then you’re out. Same for the Boards and Commissions.”
Recupero’s order did get some pushback, with opposing votes from Councillors Roy Avellaneda, Leo Robinson, Yamir Rodriguez and Calvin Brown.
However, seven other councillors were behind Recupero’s idea.
It continued a hot debate that began last year when Councillor Roy Avellaneda attempted to not re-appoint License Commission member Ken Umemba. That political skirmish led to Councillors Vidot and Enio Lopez presenting an order last fall that called for an effort to have more diversity on the City’s boards.
That was followed up by Vidot unearthing in the Charter that the City had not been advertising the open positions in the paper due to an oversight. That has now begun on a quarterly basis.
Vidot said the matter is now moved to a Committee on Conference.