ZBA Approves Special Permit for Marijuana Dispensary

The Zoning Board of Appeals approved a special permit for a retail marijuana dispensary at 320 Revere Beach Parkway last week, despite concerns raised by some city councilors that the business wasn’t the best fit for the Prattville neighborhood.

The ZBA voted 4-1 to approve the special permit for GVLP Corporation for the special permit, doing business as Vide Verde. The special permit was required to demolish and renovate the existing building to allow for a building that does not meet the use ordinance for the property and was short by three parking spaces for what is required under the city’s zoning ordinances.

The plan presented by Vide Verde is smaller than one originally presented by the applicants, with a smaller building footprint and additional parking spaces.

Attorney Anthony Rossi said the 16 parking spaces proposed for the business are an upgrade to the current business on the site. He also said there would be major landscaping and safety improvements that would improve the property, adding the applicants have worked with abutters to address some of their concerns.

“This will all be a well lit area that doesn’t exist currently,” said Rossi.

He noted that the business will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays. In addition to security lights and close to 60 security cameras inside and outside the building, Rossi said there will be security staff on duty monitoring the dispensary and the parking lot during all hours it is open.

“We are very pleased that the size of the building has decreased and the parking has increased,” said June Bowman, the owner of a nearby multi-family home on Adams Street.  “The organization has been very helpful and came to us, and will hopefully work with the city to make sure this is a safe area.”

Precinct 1 City Councilor Todd Taylor said when the project was first presented, he told Vide Verde he was going to be neutral and see what the people of his neighborhood thought of the project.

“Between now and then, we just went through an election and I’ve been knocking on a lot of doors and talked to a lot of people,” said Taylor. “The residents of Prattville, I noticed all the addresses you read off (of people who sent letters in support of the project) not one of them was in Prattville. The residents of Prattville are against this project.”

Taylor said the reduction in size of the dispensary has helped a little bit with the neighborhood feeling, but said that ultimately, he did not believe the business is what the residents of Prattville want.

“I am their voice, they elected me to represent them, so I ask you to take into consideration what the residents of Prattville want, and they do not want this marijuana facility in their district,” he said.

Councillor-at-Large Damali Vidot said she wanted to echo some of the sentiments expressed by Taylor in opposition to the project.

Vidot said she was concerned that many of the people who have spoken in favor of the project are either relatives or work for one of the three applicants for the site, La Colaborativa Executive Director Gladys Vega.

“I’ve come to these meetings, and we’re fanning over someone who does incredible work in this community, and no one can take this away from this individual, however, this zoning board serves as a buffer between what is best for the community and doing the work of the people,” said Vidot.

Vidot also noted that the economic empowerment certificates for some marijuana businesses have been given to people who were impacted by the horrible drug laws of the past, and said that Vega has spoken against marijuana in the past and is now involved in the industry when there is an opportunity to make money.

Vega said that part of her interest in opening the location in Chelsea is to ensure that the business operates properly and by all the rules.

“I want to be a part of making sure that this is done the right way,” said Vega. “If there is anyone who would enforce that, for example, I don’t drink … I don’t do anything, if there is someone there making sure we do everything by this regulated industry that is so strict, I want to be able to do that,” said Vega. “As a person who has worked for so many years to improve the quality of life for the residents of Chelsea, I would be responsible for making sure it is done the right way.”

District 5 City Councilor Judith Garcia asked the ZBA to consider the project on its merits and under the zoning guidelines, and not to pay attention to personal attacks. Garcia also noted that Vega is just one of three female applicants for the license.

“As a City Councilor, I can tell you that it pains me when applicants have the need to defend their interests and their desire to open a business here and to seek some sort of success and profit,” said Garcia, adding that the only abutter who spoke during the public hearing was the Adams Street building owner who spoke in favor of the project. ZBA member Hugo Perdomo cast the lone vote against the special permit.

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