ZBA approves recreational cannabis dispensary

The Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) approved a recreational cannabis establishment at 331-335A Newbury St. at its July 27 hearing.

Attorney Kevin Joyce said that the proponents of Rooted in Roxbury are seeking a conditional use permit for the dispensary, as well as a variance for the half-mile buffer zone, as this proposal is located within a half mile of another establishment.

He said that the dispensary will feature 1500 square feet of retail space, and will operate from 10am-10pm Monday through Saturday, and on Sundays from 11am-8pm.

ZBA Chair Christine Aruajo asked the proponents what their “compelling reason” is to be in this specific location, since the proposed location is within a half mile of another dispensary.

Joyce said that the applicants are equity applicants, and Brian Keith, one of the owners of Rooted in Roxbury, said that “first and foremost, we believe that we are bringing forward a unique retail concept and business model that differentiates us from any of the other proponents in the area and customers will want to shop with us because of our core values.”

Araujo said that the ZBA “pretty much” goes along with the zoning requirements for buffer zones, though it’s not always the case.

Keith said that two dispensaries have been approved within the half mile buffer zone, both located on Boylston St. “We would be located on Newbury St.,” he said. This location had been previously approved for medical marijuana under a different company, and now Rooted in Roxbury is proposing to change the approval from medical to recreational. Other applicants have withdrawn their proposals for this location, Joyce said.

Araujo asked if any other establishments have been approved within the half mile buffer zone on Newbury St.

Keith said Ember Gardens, which was proposed to be located on Newbury St., had recently been denied by the ZBA.

The closest cannabis establishment will be located between Gloucester and Fairfield St. on Boylston St., and another location will be located between Mass. Ave. and Ipswich St.

The team said that at this establishment, customers would have their IDs checked at the door, and then would be allowed into a holding area, where their IDs would be scanned. They would then enter the retail portion of the store, and decide what they would like to buy. The rear of the store will feature the cash register, and customers would leave the same way they entered.

They said that around 30 staff members would be hired for the store, as well as six security individuals who would work both inside and outside of the store.

Online ordering will be available to customers, and no one will be allowed to double park on Newbury St. All new customers would be required to sign a “First Time Purchaser Pledge to be a good neighbor,” and anyone who violates the agreement  for things like double parking, public consumption, and littering will not be allowed back inside the store.

Elliott Laffer, Chair of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, said that “this is a much better location” than the one proposed for Ember Gardens that was denied. He said that it is a positive that no deliveries or pickups will happen in the alley, which “will minimize impact on residents.” He said, “we look forward to seeing this true equity applicant open on Newbury St.”

Meg Mainzer-Cohen of the Back Bay Association said that “We think it’s an ideal location,” adding that “this is a very well-vetted proposal…we are absolutely thrilled with this application and his business moving into the Back Bay and we would love and appreciate your support.”

Molly Griffin of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services said that a community meeting was held in February, and “we understand that residents appreciate the proposed location.” She said that the applicant is a “strong equity applicant committed to creating jobs within the community,” and the mayor’s office “would like to defer to the board’s judgement regarding this application.”

Kennedy Avery from Councilor Kenzie Bok’s office said that the councilor is “in non-opposition of the applicant.”

She said that Bok has “concerns about a fourth dispensary in the Back Bay that violates the half-mile buffer zone. Due to this policy objection, Bok is in non-opposition, but she does want to highlight he superior qualifications and commitments of Rooted in Roxbury as an equity proprietor…”

Jonathan Napoli, owner and president of The Hempest on Newbury St. said he was in support of the proposal.

ZBA member Mark Erlich said he had some concerns about the buffer zone, but he did recognize the community support for the proposal. “I feel like we don’t have much clear direction about how to follow city policy,” he said.

“I feel comfortable, Mr. Erlich, in that they’re not like on the same street in proximity, that in fact, it’s a line back towards Boylston that’s triggering this versus a person’s walking path or something,” Aruajo responded.

The ZBA voted to approve this proposal with design review for signage and noted that the approval is for this applicant only.

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