Licensing Commission Close to Vote on Marijuana Regulations

Licensing Commission Close  to Vote on Marijuana Regulations

With plans to host four recreational marijuana shops already at some phase of readiness in Chelsea, the Licensing Commission is nearing a final vote on regulations for special additional rules for those establishments.

On March 7, the Commission continued a public hearing on the regulations, focusing on the topics of application fees, locations of the pot shops, and security.

Commission Chair Mark Rossi said the Commission should be ready to take a final vote on the regulations at its meeting in early April.

The City is limited to four retail marijuana establishments.

Those shops will already be vetted heavily before they reach the Licensing Commission for final approval. Other approvals include a host agreement in place from the City and approved by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, as well as any necessary approvals from the City’s Zoning and Planning Boards.

Rossi said the Licensing Commission will grant the retail pot shop licenses in much the same manner as it does for liquor licenses.

One of the questions raised by an early draft of the Licensing Commission regulations was whether the Commission should limit the shops to one or two per voting district.

The City ordinance already limits the establishments to three zoning districts — Industrial, Shopping Center, and Business Highway zones.

By the end of last week’s hearing, there was general agreement among the commissioners that there would not be a restriction on how close the pot shops can be to one other.

City Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda agreed that was the right move on the issue.

“I would oppose any sort of restriction on the number of feet from one place to another,” he said. “We already have zoning in place in the city and we don’t need to add another layer to that; we don’t do it for other businesses.”

The Commission also agreed on a $500 application fee and $5,000 yearly renewal fee for the marijuana businesses.

While there were some questions about the Commission’s role in looking at security at the establishments, City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher noted that there are already strong security requirements from the state, and requirements are also written into the host agreements with the prospective businesses.

Commissioner Roseann Bongiovanni said she would still like to look at the host agreements to see how they address security before taking the final vote next month.

“I don’t think security is going to be an issue,” said Commissioner James Guido, adding it is more likely traffic that could cause some issues.

According to the proposed regulation, the Licensing Commission would 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 Fisher.

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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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On the Books:Council Votes to Limit Recreational Marijuana with Zoning Ordinance

On the Books:Council Votes to Limit Recreational Marijuana with Zoning Ordinance

The City Council voted in favor of a proposal put forward by City Manager Tom Ambrosino to limit the siting of recreational marijuana retail stores and cultivation facilities.

The vote came on an 8-2 majority after an amendment by Councillor Roy Avellaneda failed to get the eight votes needed for passage. Avellaneda and Councillor Calvin Brown voted against the City Manager’s proposal. Councillor Luis Tejada was absent from the meeting.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they have limited zoning areas for retail establishments to the Industrial Zone and the Highway Business zone. Marijuana cultivation and lab facilities would be limited to the Industrial Zone only.

The state Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) has issued regulations regarding the numbers of facilities allowed in each municipality and Chelsea could have up to four retail licensees. The CCC will begin accepting application on April 2 and will potentially begin issuing them on July 1 – though the July 1 date is still very much in the air at the state level right now.

Ambrosino said it was imperative for the City to get something on the books now to limit the locations for these establishments.

“I have proposed an ordinance to try to accommodate this new industry in a way I think is reasonable,” he said. “You do need to pass some ordinance to regulate this new industry to ensure the entire city isn’t open to establishments in this new industry.”

There was a great deal of discussion, though, before the vote was logged to pass Ambrosino’s proposal.

Avellaneda had an amendment that would have eliminated the Industrial Zones as an area for retail, and would have included the Shopping Center district instead – which is in places like the Mystic Mall/DeMoula’s and the Parkway Plaza.

He said siting cultivation facilities in the Industrial Zone is a no-brainer, but he said retail of any kind, even marijuana, doesn’t belong in an industrial area.

“This will be a storefront,” he said. “You don’t picture this in the middle of some warehouse where there are no stairs and a loading dock and lifts for pallets in front. When you think about the retail, we think of this, we should think of it like a jewelry store…You have no public transportation in the Industrial Zone. You’re not taking the bus down Marginal Street or Eastern Avenue…This proposal is drawn up by individuals thinking about this like it was 20 years ago and not today.”

Avellaneda had some measured support for his amendment, but it did eventually fail, getting only six of the eight votes needed.

Those voting for his amendment included Councillors Enio Lopez, Yamir Rodriguez, Bob Bishop, Giovanni Recupero, and Judith Garcia. Those voting against it were Councillors Damali Vidot, Calvin Brown, Leo Robinson, and Joe Perlatonda.

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Remember Those in Need: There Are Many Ways to Help Those Less Fortunate

Remember Those in Need: There Are Many Ways to Help Those Less Fortunate

Although the economists tell us that the recovery from the Great Recession is still a slow one, the bottom line is that for most Americans, things are going well and getting better compared to a few years ago

But for too many of our fellow citizens, life still is tough and getting tougher thanks to cutbacks in SNAP (food stamps) and other programs that benefit those who truly are in need.

There are countless ways in which those of us who are doing well (or at least doing better) can help our neighbors and fellow citizens for whom this holiday season will be very bleak without donations to area food banks, Toys for Tots, and similar programs.

We will hear much in the coming weeks about the countdown of shopping days ‘til Christmas. We urge all of our readers to think of it also as a countdown to how many days we have left to help those who need our help.

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Planning Board Recommends Ordinance Change to Limit Siting Of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Planning Board Recommends  Ordinance Change to Limit Siting  Of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

The Planning Board has recommended that the City Council pass a zoning ordinance that would limit medical marijuana dispensaries to the Shopping Center District.

The recommendation came at a hearing on Tuesday night, and that news will be relayed at the City Council’s public hearing on the same ordinance this coming Monday, March 4th.

Originally, the Council and City Manager Jay Ash had teamed up to look into blocking dispensaries from coming to Chelsea outright. However, legal advice seemed to suggest that was not possible, and so in an effort to protect neighborhoods and the Central Business District, the ordinance limited such facilities to the Shopping Center District. There are only two of those districts and they lie in the Mystic Mall and the Parkway Plaza.

In other Planning Board news, the members recommended that a zoning ordinance be passed by the Council that modifies the site plan review process for wireless antennae placed on building by right. It would move the site plan review in those specific cases to the Building Inspector from the Planning Board.

•The Board recommended the passage of a special permit by Joaquin Ajtum to convert a two-family home at 54 Heard St. into a three-family home by using the existing basement space. It needs four pieces of relief, including parking.

•Board members agreed to give a recommendation that the Zoning Board approve a petition by Kevin Stirnweis to convert a commercial unit at 118-122 Winnisimmet St. to a residential use.

•Finally, Bell Atlantic Mobile won a recommendation for special permit to install 12 new antennae on the building at 181-189 Winnisimmet St.

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Business Climate Soars in Chelsea

Business Climate Soars in Chelsea

The grand opening of the Hair Cuttery salon at 1086 Revere Beach Parkway on Tuesday further illustrates the favorable economic climate that exists in Chelsea and that businesses of a national scope and a local scope can coexist and succeed in our city.

City Manager Jay Ash, who helped cut the ribbon at the ceremony, has done an outstanding job in bringing new businesses to our city. The total transformation of the Everett Area site where the mall once inhabited is indicative of the forward thinking and ingenuity of our city manager to build a strong, vibrant business district that will attract shoppers from Chelsea and beyond.

And as we turn our attention to what long-time Chelsea residents remember as the Parkway Plaza Shopping Center, we welcome Hair Cuttery to this bustling and growing commercial area where new stores, popular restaurants, and specialty businesses abound.

Our city’s business people are also aided by having an outstanding Chamber of Commerce organization headed by Executive Director Donald Harney and President Arthur Arsenault. The Chamber is always ready to assist businesses in the city and help them grow and prosper.

Welcome to our city, Hair Cuttery. We’re sure you’ll find Chelsea to be a great place.

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