After being sent back to the drawing board by the Boston Cannabis Board (BCB) last fall due to ownership concerns and the lack of a traffic study in the Lost Village, the Heritage Club’s owner Nike John returned for a public meeting with the community on Wednesday night, March 10.
The meeting was the return of the plan for a recreational cannabis store at 116 Cambridge St. in a building that is set off the street near Roland Street with parking – a plan brought before the community last October within what was a heated competition at the time with a proposal for Sullivan Square headed up by Charlestown’s Jack Kelly.
Things have quieted down on the issue since that time, but John returned and presented her plan once again. While much of the proposal is the same – with the same layout and design, as well as the same mitigation of $150,000 per year down-payment assistance for home ownership and a 3 percent community trust for the Lost Village – the ownership is now 100 percent with John. That was according to her and also to the amended application filed with the BCB.
“What we can pledge is you’ll have a partner that will do this the right way,” said Attorney Phil Silverman.
A clear issue from the first meeting last October was having a traffic study and a solution to the long-standing traffic issues that exist across the street on Parker and Brighton Streets with cut-through commuter traffic. Neighbors have consistently said in large numbers – and that was reflected in the meeting last week – that they wanted a solution to those problems before they could support adding to the traffic with a pot shop.
Last week’s meeting did unveil the City-funded traffic study done for Heritage Club by Shaun Kelly of Vanasse & Associates.
The study looked at traffic volumes at three intersections, including Stark/Parker Streets, Carter Street and the I-93 off-ramp. Kelly said they used Pre-COVID data and then supplemented it with unique data they have produced for marijuana locations.
The report indicated the trip generation for the dispensary in the morning weekday hours would be 31, while a coffee shop would be 303 and a take-out restaurant 75 trips. The weekday evening peak would see 66 trips to the dispensary, 109 for a coffee shop and 85 for a restaurant.
Saturday would be the peak time for the dispensary, with 109 trips, as opposed to 177 for a coffee shop and 164 for a restaurant.
Kelly said the report did conclude that a ‘No Right on Red’ sign should be posted on Stark Street, but said very little would be added to the existing traffic situation there. He said the study showed there would be very little additional impact to the area with regard to traffic.
Brian Callahan said the issues with the traffic on Parker, Cambridge and Brighton have to do with the City, and not John, but neighbors had hoped they would get relief before any license was granted.
Elaine Donovan said she felt nothing had changed from the previous plan and this plan.
“From what I’m seeing here, nothing seems to have changed since the last time we saw your proposals,” she said. “It’s the same size. It’s too big…We are blocked in with traffic. We can’t get out on a good day. If you’re going to build a business of this size, it’s going to be worse.”
Silverman said a lot has changed, and he said the ownership has simplified and the traffic study has shown that the dispensary will not add any significant traffic to the existing conditions.
Added Kelly, “Our impact is so negligible it simply doesn’t move the needle. At the end of the day, regardless of how big the building is, we’re still a drop in the bucket.”
Anne Marie Callahan said she disagreed.
“I don’t think anything has changed,” she said. “Throwing money at us is not going to make our quality of life better. Money will not make our neighborhood safer…At the BCB meeting Chairman Joyce said you needed to go back to the community and talk with us. We have not heard one word from anyone on this until now.”
Paul Perisie, who owns the building that would house Heritage – and much of the land around it, said this is a good use and it’s time to stop penalizing John for the issues that existing long before her proposal. He said if it’s not her proposal, it could be something far worse.
“To punish Nike isn’t fair,” he said. “If we don’t lease to Nike, we’ll lease to someone else and there will be no licensing, no security, no regulations, no lights and no traffic studies. It will be more concerns and more traffic and more problems you’ll deal with…The community needs to give Nike a chance.”
Even John’s former business partner, Maggie Suprey, spoke in support of the proposal – one that she used to be a part of before dropping out after last year’s controversy.
“Nike has sat down with BTD and you heard progress is in the works,” said Suprey. “Nike has done more in three months than anyone has done in 35 years. She will get something done and fight for change…She’s who you want on your side.”
Neighbor Karen Burns said she didn’t appreciate the comments from Perisie.
“I am offended by Mr. Perisie because I pick up a threat in your comments that if we don’t go along with this, he’ll rent it to whomever,” she said.
BCB Administrator Leslie Hawkins was also on the call, and she did say that John had fulfilled the requirement of completing a traffic study and that she was in good standing with the BCB. However, she could not estimate whether or not John would be on the agenda for next month’s meeting.
“There has never been a question about the equity status of the applicant or the character of the applicant,” she said.
Meanwhile, after the meeting, Councilor Lydia Edwards – who had been one of the staunchest critics of Heritage Club – said she and her staff have been in contact with John since last fall trying to work through issues. However, she stopped at saying whether or not she now supported the plan.
“Councilor Edwards is going to be talking to residents of Charlestown and looking for support on this application,” read a statement from her office.