An animated Councilor Lydia Edwards harshly opposed the Heritage Club marijuana store application, and Mayor Martin Walsh pledged his office’s support of that same application, in a very animated meeting on Thursday afternoon at the Boston Cannabis Board (BCB).
The matter was eventually taken under advisement for a potential vote this week, or a return to answer more questions.
It was, in fact, the first-ever hearing at the fairly new BCB for a Charlestown applicant. The Heritage Club is an equity applicant, and thus had their application expedited ahead of those that were non-equity, including a proposal for a boutique store a few blocks from Heritage brought by Charlestown’s Jack Kelly – who does not yet have a hearing date with the BCB.
The hearing lasted more than 90 minutes and featured several interesting developments, including the comments of Councilor Edwards, the support of the mayor (which hasn’t been standard for all applicants) and the lack of a traffic study having been completed by Heritage.
Owner Nike John began the day with a statement that indicated the opposition they’ve felt and have alleged was politically motivated by supporters of Kelly.
“Although it feels like a few people don’t want us to succeed, we are here today and ready to succeed and excited for those who came out to support us today,” she began.
After a run-down to the BCB of the project basics, one of the biggest concerns that came out of the public meetings was voiced – that being about traffic. Traffic in the Lost Village has been an issue for some time, and there is grant funding in possession by the City and a preliminary plan to help ease some of the traffic problems. However, that was an issue commonly cited at Heritage Club community meetings, and something neighbors said would prevent them from supporting the project. That said, not having a traffic study in hand to present to the Board was definitely a part of Thursday’s conversation.
John told Commissioner Alejandra St. Guillen they plan to do one if they get to the next level in the licensing process, as they cost $25,000 to $30,000 and there might already be existing studies from last year they could work off of.
“We’re going to have one done and we’re looking at doing that if we get to the next level,” she said. “We are bootstrapping this with our own savings and we want to save on costs until we get to the next step. We do want to let the community know we’ve heard their concerns.”
That was not popular with a number of Lost Village residents, who continued to cite the issues with traffic in their neighborhood and the possibility the shop could make that situation worse.
John and Maggie Suprey said they have reached out to the City’s Boston Transportation Department (BTD) and BTD is committed to working with them.
On the matter of ownership, there was the first moment of clarity for the Heritage Club when they discussed with the Board the issue of their ownership and their potential investors.
While both testified that they are 100 percent owners and have been previously, they are talking to investors that include Bedford Investments, headed by Joseph and Mark Martines of Carlisle, and Green Dreams, which is headed up by Attorney William Moran of Beacon Hill.
John said New England Development is not involved as a company, but NED employee Scott Baker has been talking with the Club to potentially make a personal investment in the company.
John said investors would potentially get about a 40 percent stake in the company.
“We are still talking to investors,” she said. “We have submitted forms for the two that are best fit for us and that is contingent on the Host Community Agreement. Yes, right now we do own it but that will change…I don’t know when, but those investments are contingent on getting an HCA.”
Commissioner Kathleen Joyce said that was common for many equity applicants, to only be able to get investments after an HCA. She also said any change in the ownership structure with investors would require a trip back to the Board.
Heritage attorney, Phil Silverman, said much has been done to malign the two women for seeking out the investment, including comments by Councilor Lydia Edwards.
“On paper, they own 100 percent now,” he said. “They are in discussions for 40 percent of the company. I think the councilor is trying to portray that in a light that isn’t fair when it was an attempt to be fully transparent. They’re working hard here and they deserve a license and I think fairness really requires it. If the Councilor couldn’t engage earlier, let her engage now.”
Edwards certainly engaged at the hearing, reciting much of what she told the newspaper last week in that the application by the two partners was incomplete, done lazily and lowering the standards.
“These applicants are not qualified for several reasons,” she said in an animated speech opposing the application. “On top of that, the application is half-baked.”
However, as steadfast as Edwards was against the propoals, Mayor Martin Walsh and his office supported the application. That is not a rubber stamp, as they mayor’s office frequently opposes cannabis applicants – including one applicant in the Fenway just prior to the Heritage hearing on Nov. 10.
“The Mayor’s Office is in support of this equity applicant,” said Mayoral Liaison Quinlan Locke.
At the end of the hearing, the BCB took the matter under advisement and scheduled a voting hearing for Nov. 18 – though it wasn’t certain if the matter would come to a vote due to some lingering questions by some Board members.
St. Guillen said she was still unclear on the ownership.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Lisa Holmes said she had too many questions to ask, and needed them to come back for an extended Q & A.
“I have a feeling they will have to come back,” she said. “There’s quite a bit I have to ask them…I have too many questions to ask.”
Heritage Club owners said their attorney had made contact with Edwards late last week to try to work out the issues she brought up.