In all the outside drama surrounding the two competing recreational marijuana proposals for Cambridge Street, there have been a lot of loud voices, but some of the most pertinent voices – those of the abutting neighbors – have often been overshadowed.
With two proposals within one-third of a mile in their neighborhood – one on Sullivan Square and one about 50 yards off of Cambridge Street – neighbors have been consistently been against Heritage and more in favor of Resilient Remedies (R2). It may seem like there is no difference, but neighbors said repeatedly it comes down to about one-third of a mile.
And on Sullivan Square and Cambridge Street, that’s a critical, though small, difference.
Neighbor Brian Callahan, president of the Sullivan Square Residents Association, broke it down the best in the dual hearings last week at the Boston Cannabis Board (BCB). When asked by Commissioner Lisa Holmes what the difference was, Callahan said it comes down to that one-third mile.
“The difference between this (R2) proposal at 31 Cambridge St. (Heritage Club) is it is about one-third to four-tenths of a mile outside of the residential neighborhood,” he said. “Traffic we’ve talked about for years is cutting off of I-93 to avoid Sullivan Square. I assume the folks going down to 31 Cambridge St. will be going directly to Sullivan Square and not avoiding it. Most of the traffic in our neighborhood takes a right into our neighborhood to avoid Sullivan Square and go to Cambridge through Somerville. Many of those vehicles are from NH.”
Added Andrea Bennetti, “The main difference between this location and Cambridge Street is it is away from the residential neighborhood. This makes much more sense for our community.”
That has been a consistent message from the neighbors, with traffic being the key element of opposition – as well as the belief that the R2 proposal is a smaller operation and one that would not bring drivers further into the Lost Village areas like Parker Street.
“There has been no collaboration (with Heritage), said Chris Bern of Parker Street. “The proposal that was there three years ago for a dispensary came from a wealthy white man from Wellesley and he had the same amount of opposition, but he at least engaged with the community. There were informal meetings at peoples’ houses. There have been no attempts to work with us (this time), and it’s a little offensive (they) say it’s because we oppose recreational marijuana. I voted for legalization. That’s not the issue.”
Bijaya Sharma of Parker Street said the opposition is strictly about location, and while Heritage’s location may not seem any different than R2’s, there is a world of difference.
“This is not about race or being a woman; it’s about the location,” she said. “If Nike had proposed her business in the Sullivan Square location where the traffic would be included in the rotary, I would have been in full support. This isn’t about who is making the application, but where it is and we’re all very concerned about the traffic in our community and how this will make the situation worse.”
Callahan added that traffic issues brought up are not a smokescreen for prejudice or favoritism towards R2 owner Jack Kelly, who is a long-time and well-respected resident of Charlestown.
“These are real issues and to make up something that we’re prejudice against Nike – we like Nike and feel she’s a decent person,” he said. “That’s silly and it denigrates the folks that live here to say that. This is real for us. We don’t do it because we have malfeasance in the heart. Three young families have moved away from here in recent months because of the traffic and that’s the real issue.”