By SCOTT JACKSON
The Zoning Board of Appeals has approved a proposal to open a recreational marijuana dispensary on Liberty Street in South Quincy.
The ZBA on Tuesday unanimously approved the request of Cloud Nine Cannabis LLC, which plans to operate under the name Pinnacle Cannabis, to open the dispensary at 15 Liberty St. The applicant still needs approval from the Massachusetts Cannabis Commission before opening.
The property at 15 Liberty St. contains 9,700 square feet of land and is zoned Industrial A, according to the city’s online property records. Located at the intersection of Liberty and Water streets, the lot is presently home to an auto repair shop.
The applicant first went before the zoning board with the proposal for the site in August and, at the board’s request, completed a traffic study in time for this week’s meeting.
During Tuesday’s hearing, William Phelan, the applicant’s attorney, said his client was able to rework the traffic plan for the site between the two meetings. The applicant was able to obtain an easement to use a curb cut on Water Street – which is on a neighboring property that has the same owner as the dispensary site – so customers can enter the lot from Liberty Street and then exit onto Water Street.
“The entrance would actually be on Liberty Street and the exit would be on Water Street and that would allow for much smoother traffic flow,” said Phelan, a former mayor of Quincy. “It would allow for the parking to be not quite as difficult to maneuver in and out of and, according to the traffic plan, in any event it would not even delay traffic for a second at the peak hours in the evening or morning rush hour.
“These dispensaries aren’t really jam packed with cars at any point in time but nonetheless with BJ’s gas station there I can understand the board’s concern.”
Moving the exit from the parking lot to the Water Street curb cut will not impact traffic at the intersection of Liberty and Water streets, Phelan added.
“The light at Water Street is a little close, but that light is not historically a light – as depicted in the traffic plan – to back up in any shape or manner. In other words, nobody stays at that light more than one cycle, even at peak hours,” he said.
“The number of cars that would be maneuvering out of that site would not in any way impact that intersection. The most that would ever occur would seem to me would be that…somebody exiting the site might have to wait until that light cycle changed and then maneuver out safely, but certainly it’s not going to cause any type of backup or delay for anybody on the street.”
During the public hearing, Brian Backman, a resident of Pleasant Street, said the dispensary would “not be good for the city or for the neighborhood.” Backman listed traffic in the area among his concerns.
“To say that traffic is not an issue in that area I think is a little short-sighted, all due respect to the studies that have been done. I have lived at that residence since 2004. A lot of accidents have happened in that area,” he said.
“We’ve done in a lot in the city to help, starting with stop signs and then flashing five-way stop signs to the light system we have now, which has greatly helped reduce the traffic accidents there. It does cause backups during rush hours.”
Two other residents of Pleasant Street wrote letters to the zoning board in opposition to the proposal.
Matthew Lyons, a Centre Street resident running for City Council this fall, said area residents he has spoken to aren’t “opposed to having recreational marijuana dispensaries around” but are concerned they are being squeezed into certain sections of Quincy. He said a medical dispensary is open on Ricciuti Drive in West Quincy, a recreational one is located on Washington Street in Quincy Point, and community meetings have been held about potential facilities on Brook Road and Quincy Avenue.
“I think the problem and the perception of a lot of this is, is why are they all being dumped West/South Quincy and Quincy Point. Why don’t the good people in Squantum, Merrymount, and every other neighborhood have the opportunity to have their weed so they don’t have to drive down to West Quincy to get it?” Lyons said.
James Dunn, a resident of Babcock Street, voiced his support for the proposal. He said the board has to consider items on a case-by-case basis, so the Brook Road dispensary will be dealt with when it comes before the board. Dunn also said the dispensary at 15 Liberty St. should help clean up that lot.
“It’s going to clean up that corner and make Quincy more presentable,” Dunn said. “And, I hope I don’t offend anybody, there’s going to be change in Quincy and this board has pretty much always been for good change. There’s always going to be change and people have to accept it. Quincy stood still for so long.”
Following the public comments, board members voted 5-0 to approve the request.
“I’m not concerned about the business,” said Martin Aikens, the board’s chairperson. “I’m concerned about what’s there now that I don’t like. Cars all over that place and making that intersection look worse than it is. It’s almost like a horror show when you drive around and all these cars everywhere.
“I think it’s going to be good, I do, and I will be voting in favor.”
Vice chairperson Brian Radell said the dispensary should be easy to get in and out of and shouldn’t cause traffic concerns.
“It’s pretty easy on, easy off from Burgin Parkway. It’s pretty minimal impact in terms of additional traffic,” he said.
“We constantly hear about traffic on this board. I will continue to say, people have a heightened sense of awareness traffic when they’re in it and they don’t when they don’t. I certainly can appreciate the sentiments – I’ve pounded my wheel too at 7:30 in the morning but I’ve also driven around on a Sunday morning at 9 a.m. and there’s not a soul driving in the city of Quincy.”