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Zoning board approves Roslindale marijuana shop, but sets limits on days of operation to keep it from grating on the neighborhood

The Zoning Board of Appeal today approved a proposed cannabis shop at 882 South St., next to Hong Kong 888 - but ordered it shut on Sundays because it's mainly in a residential neighborhood.

The proposal - which would include removing the grates that have long been pulled down over much of the building and which would keep Hong Kong 888 in place - now goes before the state Cannabis Control Commission for its review.

Board Chairwoman Christine Araujo, a Roslindale resident who walks by the building regularly on walks up to the Arboretum, voted in favor, but harshly criticized building owner Rick Ovesen for the grates that have long covered the part of the building where Tex's BBQ used to be. She said that when Hong Kong 888 was approved, like 15 years ago, one proviso was that the godawful grates be removed, but they weren't.

"Why should we consider this, that will be financially highly beneficial to you, when you've presented a very negative face to the community, for the past, as long as I can remember?" she asked Ovesen, who is partnering with Mitch Rosenfield on the proposed marijuana shop, the Hempest. The two are neighbors in Roslindale, and Rosenfield owns a hemp-based clothing store on Newbury Street, also called the Hempest.

She contrasted the building to the former eyesore market the next block up that Green T has turned into a neighborhood coffee shop that has been "a phenomenal asset to that neighborhood" and questioned how she could trust the duo to keep up the building's look based on how long the building has been an eyesore.

Ovesen acknowledged the grates "have been an eyesore forever." He said he and his father, who used to use part of the building for his plumbing-supply company, had hoped to take them down earlier, but past efforts to find tenants - possibly a tanning salon, possibly a pizza place - just never happened.

Rosenfield added that the grated-up part of the building is in considerable disrepair inside and needs extensive renovation work. Rosenfield said that the fact that both he and Ovesen actually live in the neighborhood means they have a great incentive to improve the look of the property, that unlike the out-of-town owners at some other shops elsewhere in the city, "we have a vested interest in making it something beneficial to the neighborhood" in which they are raising their kids.

Araujo and other members also expressed concern about traffic on South Walter Street, almost more of an alley, between the building and Henry's Market, which is already often narrowed by people parking on what passes for sidewalks and is used as a shortcut by local drivers and T bus drivers seeking to avoid the lights at Robert Street on their way from the area of the Arboretum to Roslindale Square.

Rosenfield said that it will take another year or 18 months before the state commission would approve the proposal, by which time the demand on any one marijuana shop in the area will be greatly reduced, so he's not expecting long lines of people. Also, he said, the shop is near numerous bus lines in Roslindale Square and there is plenty of parking - both in a municipal lot on the other side of the train tracks behind Citizens Bank and on the street nearby. And, he said, he's looking at curbside pickup for customers.

Still, members noted that, unlike other pot places that have come before them in the past, the store is in what is mainly a residential area. The board voted to approve the proposal, but agreed to a proposal by Araujo that the store not be allowed to open on Sundays, "so residents will have relief from dealing with parking and visitors into the area" and to require Ovesen and Rosenfield to come before the board a year after the place opens so that the board can consider its impact on the neighborhood.

Rosenfield said the shop, which would employ 15 to 20 people, would be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. He had planned reduced hours on Sundays.

The board also sent the proposal to the BPDA for extensive "design review," not only of the facade of the marijuana shop and the Chinese take-out place, but for the six-unit apartment building behind the commercial part of the building.

The mayor's office supported the proposal. City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo did not have an aide in the meeting to say how he felt. The Longfellow Area Neighborhood Association voted its "non-opposition" to the proposal. But a manager at the Longfellow House senior complex across the street sent a letter in opposition.

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Comments

I don't see a Dunks anywhere that's not allowed to be open on Sunday. You know why? Because they're permitted to respond efficiently to demand.

"It'll grate on the neighbors" wasn't a premise until government made it one.

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Blame the neighbors if you must, but the government is just responding to the people here.

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Are a "conditional use," which means they're likely to be approved but that the zoning board can, well, set conditions on them.

All the other shops that have come before the board, like, I assume, the vast majority of Dunkin' Donuts in the city (takeout is also a conditional use) are in commercial districts. Although there are some stores next to the proposed site (the Chinese place, a sub shop, a convenience store, a small appliance store and Green T), it's really primarily a residential area, unlike, say, Roslindale Square a couple blocks away.

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Odd..There is a liquor/convenience store right next door that is very busy on Sundays..Also there was a Roslindale shop approved by the ZBA in December on Washington St by Archdale that is very similarly in a neighborhood setting, and they can open Sundays. I guess, as that neighborhood is on the other side of the tracks, the zoning board didn't think Sundays would be "grating" to them?? Sounds awfully fishy, and like a moral personal bias is being applied to a law that was voted on. The Washington st shop also had Mike Ross on their team, who has managed to get just about every other Cannabis facility in Boston approved by the ZBA. The other Roslindale shop on Cummins Hwy(also Mike Ross project) is also partly owned by a former ZBA member who had to resign due to the conflict. The fact this shop would be close competition with these others should raise some flags. I'm still trying to figure out the logic on the window grates too...wouldn't the best way to see them removed be to get this place open asap?

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I don't see a Dunks anywhere that's not allowed to be open on Sunday. You know why? Because they're permitted to respond efficiently to demand. Because, for whatever reason, coffee is a socially acceptable psychostimulant, whereas cannabis is not.

Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees have to go before essentially the same committees to open a store, no?

*edit* I learned something about zoning from Adam’s post, but I still think OP’s libertarian screed is misguided.

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I'm sure that is really grating.

Seriously! Bears in your house!

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So what do I do now? Go to church?

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Convert to Judaism?

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Rosenfield said that it will take another year or 18 months before the state commission would approve the proposal, by which time the demand on any one marijuana shop in the area will be greatly reduced, so he's not expecting long lines of people.

He's right. The whole meile of long lines and traffic is a thing of the past. There's enough shops now that this won't happen. Its been a while since I've been to NETA, but do the lines still happen? (sans Covid of course)

I've been by the one in Eastie. Its in a small spot on Meridian. No parking. I've never seen a soul standing outside when I go by. (with the pandemic, of course)

This is pure NIMBYism based on fear.

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NETA is appointment only-now, so no lines. Hoping it stays that way post-Covid.

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You’re probably right. Two (of 6 proposed) Provincetown pot shops are now open and for the most part we aren’t seeing the long lines that the doom and gloom NIMBY’s had predicted.

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I was wondering how they were doing. Friends went to Ptown and stopped in over the summer. Said it was busy but not long waits.

The whole argument about long lines gets less and less factual with each passing shop that opens. We knew this was going to happen but people are NIMBYs anyways...

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I've been by the one in Eastie. Its in a small spot on Meridian. No parking. I've never seen a soul standing outside when I go by. (with the pandemic, of course)

i wouldn’t say that. i’ve waited outside for 5-6 minutes a few times. usually at least 1-2 people ahead of me. i do usually go at peak hours though.

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Yeah I tend to go down that way in the mid-afternoon. so yeah you may be right. And I am sure some of that is limitation due to the pandemic.

Even still 1-2 people is hardly the roped off NETA parking lot people are thinking about

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So punny

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Ah, gentrifiers, property values, grates....

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In the absence of an edible? Transubstantiation be damned!

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Well, Jesus certainly looked like a pothead

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So we shouldn't judge anyone based on appearance alone...

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If anybody deserves to own a Cannabis shop in Boston it is Mitch Rosenfield. He paved the way before peoples aunts were rubbing on arthritis

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I expect Hong Kong 888 will be making bank off of this too. #munchies

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This is yet another example of Chairwoman Araujo acting like the Mayor of Roslindale in her role as ZBA chair. The local neighborhood association supported this shop, and they're hardly an easy group to get to approve things. Local officials supported it. Neighbors seem mostly fine with it. And yet she decides unilaterally that it should be closed on Sundays. She does this stuff any time a Roslindale variance is before the board. The ZBA is not there for her to dictate her personal preferences.

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Not open on Sundays b/c why? We can get booze on Sundays but no cannabis? Was Baker in charge of that rule?

For the residents...there won't be a line stretching up and around the Arbs. You can order on-line and pick up or gasp...have it delivered! My god - the children!

It is criminal that MA has taken so long to have these shops open when we voted it on years ago. I am all for small, local owners rather than the venture capitalists / billionaires that are running so many of the shops now.

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there is plenty of parking

I formally lived on nearby Hewlett St and walked by to the train and my barber was located next to this location. The train station lot might as well be in Medford. No one is going to walk from there. There generally IS street parking not TOO far away, but to say there is "plenty" is not really true.

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to say the commuter lot might as well be in Medford, when it is about 600 ft away. I mean if you are worried about people not walking 600 feet to a place because of the parking they can get closer, doesn't that mean there is plenty of parking? With curbside pickup and pre-order apps, these shops are averaging 5 minute visits.. faster than coffee shops.

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I "formally" live in the neighborhood to this day and there is a ton of on-street parking.

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Small correction regarding the use of South Walter St by bus drivers. It's actually the official 51 route (according to the MBTA's maps) to use South Walter St to get from Walter St to Robert St (on runs to Forest Hills, since South Walter is one-way).

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"Still, members noted that, unlike other pot places that have come before them in the past, the store is in what is mainly a residential area."

Is this the same zoning board that approved the pot shop in Dorchester? The one that's smack in the middle of a residential area? Ooooh, they must mean a WHITE residential area, I see...

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Or even a little more than that. The Dunkin' analogies don't work -- you'd never get to open a Dunkin' here.

It's a non-conventional area: it's on a block of commercial properties, and not far from the commuter rail or Roslindale Square - but even the Square isn't exactly a rocking-busy commercial district, and it's seated squarely amongst a semi-dense but sleepy residential area. At the same time, Walter Street (which it faces) is a "major road", not because there's much on it, but because it's a de facto main artery for traffic from Roz/W Rox/Hyde Park inbound towards Boston.

These are the sort of areas that you'll have this tension with commercial development so long as our city is car-centric - not by any fault of the businesses themselves - but because pass through traffic imposes a burden already. It's up to those businesses to win friends in the area, which is easy to do if you're Henry's, Green T or Checkmate, but a pot shop has bigger innate challenges to accomplishing that. Opting out of Sundays to give some grace is a good move.

There are issues (counting the number of cars every morning over a few hour period parking in the bus stop to go to Green T will tell you as much, at least in pre-COVID times), but none of them are a dealbreaker. Let them give it a go, and if they can't win neighborhood allies, let them be driven out.

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The hearing for the dispensary at Mary Ann's is next Tuesday at 10:30am.

Boston College has joined with the local liquor stores and bars in the area to call this a danger to the community. It might be one of the most ridiculous pushbacks yet, in the full genre of anti-marijuana NIMBYs.

If anyone wants to be heard and call out these groups on their hypocrisy, you can register here: http://bit.ly/zbaFeb2hearing

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