By SCOTT JACKSON
City councillors approved a zoning ordinance regulating where marijuana dispensaries can open in Quincy. The legislation also ties their business hours to those of liquor stores.
Councillors approved the ordinance, which Mayor Thomas Koch introduced in February 2018, on Dec. 2 in an 8-0 vote after making several amendments to the bill. Ward 6 Councillor William Harris was not present at the meeting.
In a separate vote, councillors voted 8-0 to impose a 3 percent local sales tax on recreational marijuana products, the maximum local sales tax allowed under state law. The local tax is in addition to the 17 percent state tax on marijuana products.
Koch planned to sign both measures into law, according to his chief of staff, Chris Walker.
The ordinance bars marijuana establishments from opening within 1,500 feet of a residential zoning district. They are also barred from opening within 500 feet of any school, playground, athletic field, beach, public park, library, skating rink, public transit center, day care facility, or youth sports facility. Those regulations would essentially limit recreational pot shops to the Fore River Shipyard, the vicinity of Ricciuti Drive or Crown Colony, unless an applicant obtained a variance to open elsewhere.
The ordinance requires anyone looking to open a marijuana establishment to obtain a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals. A community meeting would be required prior to the application being filed. Applicants would also need to sign a host agreement with the mayor; those host agreements would include a community impact fee of up to 3 percent of gross sales payable to the city for up to five years.
The ZBA would be allowed to license one marijuana establishment for every five liquor stores in the city; there are currently 35 liquor stores in Quincy.
In the original version of the ordinance Koch proposed, marijuana establishments would have been permitted to open from 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Councillors on Dec. 2 voted to amend those hours to match the business hours of liquor stores, which are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays, according to City Clerk Nicole Crispo.
Ward 4 Councillor Brian Palmucci had initially proposed making the marijuana establishments’ business hours 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, saying it would give customers more of an opportunity to visit the stores on Sundays, when there is typically less traffic.
Councillor Anne Mahoney then suggested a 7 p.m. closing time for the marijuana establishments, saying other communities, in particular Brookline, have experienced problems with pot shops. Palmucci accepted Mahoney’s suggestion as a friendly amendment.
Ward 3 Councillor Ian Cain, however, said marijuana establishments should be treated the same as liquor stores. He said a 7 p.m. closing time would be too early because it would limit revenue for both the businesses and the city.
“We’re trying to allow businesses to operate and function, so you want to give them proper time to do so so that they are making some money and we’re able to in turn make some money. Limiting those hours to 7 p.m. doesn’t make much sense to me,” Cain said.
“People of all walks of life are going to enjoy this type of facility. It’s not just the stereotypical negative ne’er-do-well.”
Cain’s amendment to tie the hours of operation for the marijuana establishments to those of liquor stores passed in a 5-3 vote, after Palmucci withdrew his proposed amendment. Noel DiBona, Kirsten Hughes, Nina Liang and Palmucci joined Cain in supporting the change. Mahoney, Brad Croall and David McCarthy voted against it.
Croall, whose district includes the Fore River Shipyard and the nearby neighborhood, said Quincy should start slow based on the experiences of other communities, including Brookline, where recreational dispensaries are open.
“There has been noticeable increases to traffic and stuff like that,” Croall said. “I would feel more comfortable seeing…how it rolls out.”
Another amendment to the ordinance, introduced by Palmucci and approved by voice vote, requires the mayor to submit any host agreement to the council for review. Palmucci said his amendment would not require the council to approve such agreements but would ensure councillors are able to see them.
Massachusetts voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in a November 2016 referendum. Statewide, 53.6 percent of voters backed the measure, and 51 percent of voters in Quincy did so as well. Because a majority of Quincy voters approved the 2016 referendum, the mayor and City Council cannot ban marijuana establishments outright.