City Council to Weigh Expanding Marijuana Locations to Downtown

A change to the zoning for the location of marijuana stores could bring any new stores that open into the downtown area and other traditional business districts in Chelsea – as the City moves to liberalize their siting of marijuana dispensaries on the eve of the first store opening this week.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino officially proposed to the City Council on Nov. 2 a zoning package that would include changing the zoning for marijuana stores and likely bring them into the business district – something that was blocked when marijuana first came on the scene several years ago.

The City’s first marijuana store opened on Tuesday, and currently stores and dispensaries are only allowed in the Industrial District (Produce Market area and Eastern Avenue area) and in the Parkway Plaza district.

“Given the limited options for real estate available in the industrial center and highway shopping business district, were this to be allowed, property in the business district may open up some more opportunities,” he wrote.

The current minimum number of dispensaries in Chelsea would be four, and there are three in the pipeline now besides the one that opened Tuesday. However, there is also seemingly amongst the Council and the residents of Chelsea a desire to look into expanding that number and allowing more than just the minimum.

Ambrosino opened up that possibility – along with delivery-only options – in his zoning package. Chelsea has been known as one of the more progressive and welcoming municipalities to the new cannabis industry, and it is also one of 29 Areas of Disproportionate Impact (ADI) designated by the state.

Councillor Damali Vidot was in favor of maybe revamping the ordinances now that cannabis hasn’t become as bad of a deal as some thought.

“I think it is time we move forward,” she said. “We moved with baby steps in the beginning because we didn’t know how the public would react to it. When you look at Chelsea being disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs, we should at least try to our residents to try to find a lucrative situation in this industry.

Need Them Big Glasses

If Councillor Giovanni Recupero were a social media star, he’d be viral twice a week. One of those great moments from the councillor came at the Nov. 2 meeting when he called on all departments in the City to begin submitting graphs, maps and reports in bigger typeface.

It seems he has an inkling that some City Departments are trying to put the kibosh on his inquires by printing everything out too small so he can’t read it – even with big glasses.

“I don’t know if this is strategically done by them, or maybe it’s not, but every time they send us these graphs and charts they are so small you can’t even read them with glasses,” he said. “You need a big pair of glasses to look at these things. We spend money all the time on these big machines to give us graphics. I would like them to give us bigger size so we can see what it is.”

The Council agreed to bigger sizes on a voice vote.

Where’s the Savings

It wasn’t long ago last year that the City took its Water & Sewer Department in-house to save some money and stop using contractors – with the hope it could also provide more local jobs for residents as well.

Now some time has gone by and Councillor Leo Robinson wants to know if there has been any savings from that major shift in the City’s operations.

He said it was predicted that the first year would see a savings of $350,000.

“We were told in the first year we’d have a savings of $350,000,” he said. “I’d like to know if we saw any savings and if we’re going to make it to that figure.”

The Order was approved 10-0.

Tax Rate Meeting This Month

City Manager Tom Ambrosino moved to schedule a Subcommittee on Conference at the Nov. 2 meeting to hold a meeting and presentation on the Tax Rate this coming year.

That meeting will be on Nov. 16, and it will explain the movement in values on property and potentially any increases or decreases in property taxes. The Council is to set the final rate on Nov. 30.

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