A virtual, city-sponsored community meeting was held for the cannabis dispensary proposed for 329 Columbus Ave. in the South End on May 16. The dispensary, called Herbal Power, is being proposed by a team of Equity Program applicants, and the majority of the company’s ownership is women.
Desiree Franjul, co-owner and founder of Herbal Power, as well as Yomari Chavez, a member of the Herbal Power team, presented the proposal to more than 100 residents on Monday evening. There have been several previous community meetings about the proposal, but this was the mandated city-sponsored meeting.
Franjul said that the proposed hours for the dispensary would be 9am to 10pm, seven days a week. The design for the store would be a “chic, boutique feel” with “warm, pastel colors” that would be “inclusive and welcoming.”
She also went over some of the traffic and parking details for the proposal, saying that an analysis had been conducted by engineering consultant Fuss & O’Neill. It was found that the dispensary would have “no significant impact to existing conditions,” according to a slide presented, and there are also “numerous transit points within steps of our location,” including the MBTA Orange Line at Back Bay station, bus lines, two public parking garages, and street parking.
“The buffer zone conflict is located within a separate neighborhood,” the team said. Franjul also said that the analysis showed that most customers will visit the dispensary on foot, by bike, or by public transit.
Franjul also talked about security and nuisance and abatement plans, which include a Good Neighbor Agreement signed by all customers, and security plans by the Windwalker Group. She said that staff will “monitor the exterior to ensure there is no double parking.”
She also said that “anti-diversion training will be provided for all employees,” and only those 21 and older will be allowed in the store. Identification will be verified before people are allowed in, and the dispensary “reserve[s] the right to deny sales to any individual.”
All products are also tracked through a system, she said.
Yomari Chavez then talked a little bit about community benefits, saying that the team is “working with MassHire to hire locally,” as well as donating to the South End Technology Center. She said that other benefits include the traffic analysis, “beautification and revitalization of vacant storefront,” and an “increased security presence.”
Franjul said that two private abutters meetings have been held, and the team has also previously met with the Ellis Neighborhood Association, City Council President Ed Flynn, and “individual abutters at their request.” She said the team is “happy to continue meeting and engaging with the community as we move forward.”
Many residents came out to comment on this proposal, with a large number of people saying they are opposed to the location of the dispensary, but not the dispensary itself. Some suggested it be located on Gray Street instead. People cited issues of traffic and parking on this stretch of Columbus Ave., as well as safety concerns for children
Others were in support of the proposal, saying they support the minority and women-owned business and the local jobs it will provide, and some did not agree that it will cause any issues in the area.
Deb Lawrence, a Columbus Ave. resident, spoke up about issues with parking. “There is no parking at all in front of 329 Columbus,” she said, and believes that “people will park illegally,” so she thinks a different location would be more appropriate for the dispensary.
In the chat, Trey Williams, who lives on West Concord St., said he is “in support of Herbal Power.”
Also in support was Lilly Ocasio, who said that her “family has been in this community for many generations…Black Latinos have been fighting to remain a part of the neighborhood. It’s time we start recognizing the diversity in this community and be inclusive to all.”
Jennifer Forsythe, who owns units two, four, and five at 329 Columbus Ave., said that “we are directly above the unit.” She said that when Coda, the restaurant that was in the space previously, cooked French fries, the “smell permeated the entire building.” She had concerns about odor from marijuana coming through, as well as issues with parking and cars in front of the building.
Lesley Delaney Hawkins, the attorney for Herbal Power, said that “we’re not manufacturing in any way on the site. All product will be sealed at all times.” She said that while “concerns with odor” are “certainly valid,” they “related more to cultivation and manufacturing.” She added that no packing will be done on the premises either.
Franjul added that there is a “seed to sale cannabis tracker that tracks all products. Our goal is to be a friendly neighbor.” All customers will be required to sign a “friendly neighbor agreement,” and if patrons are found opening or consuming products outside the store, they will be banned from making future purchases.
“If they want to be good neighbors they will not put it there,” said “Nessans iPhone” in the chat, speaking of the dispensary. “There are school buses that drop kids off in the afternoon, they should not be exposed to this…There is a public park across the road that the local community uses that will be impacted by this.”
Paul Tellier said that he has a list of “over 120 residents in opposition,” and said that he has issues with “traffic, safety, and parking in an already dangerous intersection.”
Jessica Vazquez, a West Dedham St. resident, expressed her support for the dispensary in the chat. “I have lived in the South End for 41 years,” she wrote. “I would support this proposal. The applicants have ties to the community and I believe they should be supported as a women owned company.” She said that “I don’t believe this business will cause problems,” and she believes the owners will “give back to the residents by offering local jobs.”
Julie Hasse said she has issues with “parking” and “disruption,” and also takes issue with the fact that the City Year headquarters is nearby. She said that there are a “number of young adults who are coming there,” and is concerned about the “influence this could have on them.”
Others shared concerns for the safety of area children and school bus drop offs.
“We do care about this neighborhood and the kids in the community,” Franjul said, adding that this location would not have been proposed if it were within 500 feet of a school or child care center. “I do appreciate your feedback and we’re listening.”
The full meeting was recorded by Kim Crucioli, the mayor’s liaison for the South End.