Three main types of people attended a community meeting tonight on a pot shop proposed for the intersection of South and Walter streets: People who support the idea of a locally owned shop, especially one in a long derelict storefront; people who don't object to the idea of a pot shop in Roslindale in general, just not at that location; and a smaller group of people who begged the would-be operators to think of the children and not open anywhere near families and Fallon Field.
Mitch Rosenfield, who owns the Hempest clothing store on Newbury Street, has proposed a 1,000-square-foot shop in what has long been a grates-down eyesore at 882 South St., in the same building as the Hong Kong 888 Cafe. He would partner with Rick Ovesen, who, like Rosenfield, also lives nearby, and whose father owns the building. Hong Kong 888 fans can relax - the two said the take-out place would remain in its current location in the renovated building.
Rosenfield told a packed meeting room at the Roslindale Community Center he probably couldn't open before the spring of 2020 at the earliest, because of the complexities of winning a state marijuana license and because of the number of applicants already well ahead of him.
Rosenfield began his presentation by attempting to head off concerns about parking. He said the Leicester horror show will not happen in Roslindale because by the time his shop opens, the state will have several dozen pot shops, so nobody's going to be driving long distances to get to a small shop in Roslindale, that there's already plenty of on-street parking in the area near the old Longfellow School and that he expects his peak business time to be Saturdays, when the parking lot at the Roslindale Village commuter-rail stop is near empty. He said he doesn't expect to have any more customers than the Green T coffeehouse across the street - and added he would offer an app so customers could get in and out with their orders that much faster.
"I can't think of an easier place to park my car, really," he said.
Opponents living on nearby streets, though laughed at that and said they didn't buy it for a second. They said nobody's going to pay to park in the MBTA lot and will just park on streets that are already burdened with traffic - such as that caused by reckless drivers speeding down Fletcher from South Street to Centre Street.
"No one's going to park in the train station on Saturday or Sunday," one nearby resident said. "They're going to park in front of my house."
"We're going to have this conversation about parking anywhere we go," Rosenfield said. "Where is there parking in Boston?"
"Malls!" people shouted, referring to American Legion Highway. "Roslindale Village!" others added. One woman suggested Washington Street, some place like the building that now houses Nick's Pizza and Nick's Liquor up near the West Roxbury Parkway.
Rosenfield said he could not open in Roslindale Square because of a prohibition against pot shops near public elementary schools - such as the Sumner on Basile Street. He said he liked one resident's proposal to offer a discount to people who show they've parked in the T lot and that he would be willing to contribute towards speed signs that try to slow drivers down on nearby streets.
He was joined by City Councilor Tim McCarthy in saying Leicester just won't be repeated in Boston. McCarthy said the city is already planning to have the first wave of pot shops open at the same time - to avoid the crowding that happened at that one store. McCarthy added that he expects to see as many as 50 marijuana stores in Boston eventually, which means they will be catering almost entirely to nearby residents.
One supporter said people afraid of traffic and parking issues should take solace from the experience in Roslindale Square last year when a brewery ran a beer hall at the Roslindale Substation. People came from all over but there weren't any great parking problems - just people having a good time - she said.
Rosenfield was also supported by residents who said it's about time the eyesore building was fixed up. Ovesen said his father has tried to rent out the space, but aside from brief interest from a tanning salon and a restaurant, nobody has wanted to move into it.
Although most people opposed to the proposal said parking and traffic were their main issues, some did raise the specter of potheads changing Fallon Field from a family-friendly park to a hazy hell of ne'er-do-wells, some of them teenagers with friends who would obtain pot for them. One resident recalled the 1970s and 1980s, when gangs roamed the park. And they pointed to a study they said showed legalization of marijuana in Colorado has led to more teen pot smokers.
Supporters, though, questioned whether that could possibly happen. For one thing, public-park pot smoking is illegal. One resident who grew up in the neighborhood in the 1970s and 1980s said those weren't gangs back then, just local kids like him.
Dr. Franklin King, a psychiatrist at Mass. General who lives nearby, said that study was based on dubious methodology and that he agrees with other supporters the shop is not going to leave the neighborhood a gridlocked sea of cars because Boston will have so many pot shops by the time it opens and only about 15% of Bostonians use marijuana products.
One supporter, who works for the state Department of Public Health on adolescent addiction issues, said teens aren't interested in going into a store selling legalized marijuana, anyway, in part because the illegal variants will remain cheaper. This raises other issues, but isn't something that should block the proposed shop, he said.
One nearby resident and supporter said he can't wait for the shop to open because his partner's multiple sclerosis symptoms are eased by marijuana, and that he'd much rather have a local shop where he can pick some up rather than going through the inconvenience of getting her to a doctor for a prescription and then to a dispensary - none of which are currently open in the immediate area.
Supporters questioned how the pot shop could possibly be worse than Henry's, which sells alcohol as well as the scratch tickets they said litter the neighborhood.
Rosenfield said his shop will have a state of the art monitoring system - and a front-door "mantrap" and a security guard - that, among other things, will ensure no teens are getting in.
The meeting occasionally became testy. When Ovesen answered one resident's question about the building's ownership by saying, yes, his father owned it, the man replied, "City records would back that up?"
Holding the meeting tonight is just one of numerous steps Rosenfield and Ovesen need to take before they could open. The Boston Zoning Board of Appeals will have to approve the proposal and they will have to work out a "host agreement" with the city, in addition to applying for and winning permission from the state Cannabis Control Commission.
McCarthy, who opposed marijuana legalization, said he recognizes legal pot is here to stay, and that "I will support the local people over people flying in from Arizona and Las Vegas and everywhere else," because a local person will answer his call if there's a problem, while a Las Vegas company wouldn't even pick up the phone.
Rosenfield said he expects his shop to employ up to 20 people and that in addition to hiring local folks, he will aim to employ "equity" candidates who have suffered harm from the war on drugs.
One person who came away from the meeting pleased at what he heard was Seymore Green, who owns the eponymous shop on Poplar Street in Roslindale. Green asked Rosenfield if he would sell bongs, scales and other pot-related paraphernalia. Told that state law bars pot shops from dabbling in these items, Green, who sells such products, smiled. "OK, I can stay in business."