THE MALDEN ADVOCATE–Friday, October 16, 2020 Page 11 MARIJUANA | FROM PAGE 1 Christenson and then obtain a state license from the Massachusetts Cannabis Commission. If both those steps are accomplished, the company and its owners would then return to the Malden CLC for final approval of a local retail marijuana license. The lengthy public hearing was primarily driven by questions and opinions asked and offered by all the 11 City Councillors. The public comment segment of the hearing was brief, but impassioned, as one resident spoke in favor of the permit being granted and two, including a former longtime City Councillor, spoke against the petition. One repeated concern of several of the City Council members, including those who voted for and against the petition in the end, was traffic issues, including volume as well as plans for entering and leaving the establishment. In the eventual vote to approve the special permit, specific condition language was added to include a directive that the petitioner address access and egress concerns as part of the agreement, at the request of Ward 1 Councillor Peg Crowe. The proposed retail site is located in the western end of her ward, one street away from Ward 2. These concerns are also expected to be addressed in the course of the Host Community Agreement (HCA). Additionally, at the request of Ward 4 Councillor Ryan O’Malley, another amendment to granting the motion tied the special permit to the five-year life of the anticipated HCA to be negotiated with the Mayor’s Office. A common theme driven by many speakers throughout the hearing was that it was not a night to replay the “pros and cons” of the 2016 state vote on legalizing marijuana sales in Massachusetts, but instead, to consider the merits of the petition before the City Council. Attorney Patrick MacDonald, who gave a presentation on behalf of Misty Mountain to open the hearing, made this point from the outset. “We do recognize there exists objection to the legalization of marijuana, but that is not the issue before [the Council],” McDonald said, “not whether it is a good idea or a bad idea to legalize marijuana. What is before [the Council] is whether this applicant is a good fit under the city’s own guidelines. “This applicant [Misty Mountain] is an extraordinarily good fit,” McDonald said. Establishment would be at 323 Commercial St. According to the plan in place, Misty Mountain Shop would replace a building now occupied by Mattuchio Construction Co., which is located at 323 Commercial St. The owner said Tuesday that a parcel at 323A Commercial St. has also been acquired and will be merged to create a 32,000 square foot site. Plans are to spend upwards of $400,000 to completely renovate the interior and exterior of the existing building while demolishing a smaller portion of the structure in the rear, which would free up more space for parking, where 49 spaces would be provided. Only sales of marijuana products, including buds, prerolled marijuana joints, edibles and other marijuana-infused products would occur at the establishment, with no cultivation or excessive storage of product planned at the site. The owner, Gath, who is an engineer and indicated the daily operation of the business would become his full-time job, said he has worked on the design, development and construction of approximately 30 marijuana retail sites in states where the product is legal in the past five years. Gath said Misty Mountain is hoping to realize between $6 million-$13 million-plus in annual sales at the Malden site. City’s revenue take could be from $360K-$800K Attorney McDonald noted that with a 3% local tax and an additional 3% community impact fee, this would be a revenue generator for the City of Malden. Using those figures, it is estimated the business might generate from $360,000 to $800,000 in tax/mitigation revenue annually. The most vocal opponent at Tuesday’s hearing was Ward 2 Councillor Paul Condon, whose ward abuts the proposed retail outlet, just one street away on Pearl Street. Condon voted “no” on the special permit, along with O’Malley (Ward 4) and Barbara Murphy (Ward 5). Voting in favor were Councillors Neal Anderson (Ward 7), David Camell (Ward 6), Crowe (Ward 1), Debbie DeMaria (at Large), Amanda Linehan (Ward 3), Craig Spadafora (at Large), Steve Winslow (at Large) and City Council President Jadeane Sica (Ward 8). Condon made it clear he both disapproved of the 2016 vote legalizing marijuana and is concerned over the negative traffic impact the establishment could possibly have on an intersection already in distress. “It is already right next to one of the most dangerous intersections in this city, and this business would add to the volume and vehicle trips in that area,” Condon said. “Between 3:30 and 5:30 in the afternoon the traffic there is brutal. I don’t see how any cars will get in and out of there safely. It’s backed up over a mile every day.” Condon also revisited the 2016 Massachusetts marijuana legalization vote. “It passed 5346 percent, hardly a landslide, and it was a similar percentage in Malden. Then the state got cute and tucked in that in communities that voted in favor, they would allow a number of marijuana establishments that would equal 20% of liquor stores in a community.” Condon calls for city moratorium at two marijuana facilities “For Malden that means five marijuana facilities. I truly don’t believe [legalization] would have passed in this city or statewide if voters were fully aware of this piece of the legislation,” Condon added. “You just can’t win in a vote like this. I hope we go about our business and get our voters to limit our marijuana establishments in the future to just two.” Two Councillors who voted to grant the special permit agreed that they do not support marijuana and its use in general, but pointed to the reality of the issue – that it is now legal – and that a business of this nature is allowed in Malden. “All you have to do is sit in my backyard next to Trafton Park at night if you want to know that marijuana is in Malden,” said Councilor-at-Large Winslow. “We did put all of the regulations and the Cannabis Committee in place, and this petitioner has followed everything that was asked.” “There are pros and cons of every business that comes into our city,” Winslow added. “This is about as good as we can do in Malden, with the actual site and business plan. If we were going to make many more restrictions, we would not be following the laws.” “I’m another one who’s not a marijuana user and have no personal interest in that aspect,” Ward 7’s Anderson said. “But marijuana is here to stay in the city – legal or illegal, we are going to have it. If [Misty Mountain] does the business it hopes to do, it would be a significant amount of tax revenue.” “We have to address traffic issues, but it appears to be a well-planned business,” Anderson added. “I am in full support of this [petition],” City Council President Sica said. “Since five of eight of the original applicants were looking to set up an establishment in Ward 8, I believe I am the only Councillor who attended every meeting held on all of the applications.” Second public hearing for marijuana sales Oct. 27 The members will be holding a second public hearing at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday, October 27 on the application of Standard Naturals, Inc. That special permit application seeks to locate a marijuana retail establishment at 7 Linehurst Rd. in Malden. The proposed Linehurst Road retail site is in Councillor Sica’s Ward 8, on the Malden-Revere-Saugus line, off the Bennett Highway portion of Route 1 northbound. The Misty Mountain owner, Gath, told the Councillors his business plans on “becoming a community partner,” with intentions of hosting weekly, small group seminars on-site about marijuana, its use and its effects. Gath also said the business will create 30 new jobs in the city, adding that at least 50% of the jobs will be designated for Malden residents. In response to an inquiry by Councillor-at-Large DeMaria, Gath confirmed that an emphasis would be made on embracing the Malden community diversity when hiring as well. “We would definitely like to see Malden residents get priority in hiring and we appreciate that you are considering Malden’s diversity as well when you do your hiring,” Councillor DeMaria said. She also gave notice of the lengthy vetting period Misty Mountain had gone through to get to this point, a process that began in 2018 when the principals first inquired. Malden did not begin accepting applications for marijuana special permits until April 2019, DeMaria recalled. “Thanks for hanging in there,” she said. Councillor Murphy, one of the three votes against the petition, said she is concerned that the retail site would be in proximity to both a childcare facility to its east, ABCD Head Start, at 359 Commercial St., and a new addiction recovery center a quarter-mile to its west, Bridge Recovery Center, 239 Commercial St., which will be run by Malden Overcoming Addiction (MOA). Murphy calls for educating youths on marijuana “You have mentioned educational sessions for people who come into your establishment, but what about the MTEC [Malden Teen Enrichment Center] and high school kids? We don’t want the next generation of kids doing drugs,” Councillor Murphy said. “Where do you fit in our community to stop the spread of drugs in this community?” Attorney McDonald said the owner would be open to addressing these concerns in the course of the host community agreement negotiations. “[Erik Gath] would be open to addressing these target groups (high school-aged students).” In the public comment section of the hearing, former Malden City Councillor Neil Kinnon made a lengthy statement against the petition, citing that, if granted, the Malden location would be the only one available in the region, potentially attracting many from outside the community to its doors. “Marijuana sales are banned in Everett, banned in Medford, banned in Stoneham and in most communities going up Rt. 93 North all the way to New Hampshire,” Kinnon said. “It will be the only one [marijuana retail site] around. It is impossible to say it would not be detrimental to the neighborhood.” Kinnon also cited figures he said indicate that increased collision and vehicle fatality rates were up in states, such as Colorado and Washington, where marijuana had been legalized previously. “Marijuana use is comparable to binge drinking,” Kinnon said, “but alcohol users don’t [always] drink to get drunk, but normal marijuana users smoke to get stoned.” Ward 6 Councilor David Camell asked about security at the site. “We would like to hear about provisions for security as this would be a concern from some residents,” Camell said. A former State Police Trooper, Karen Hawkes, was present at the meeting and noted that a detailed security plan was presented at the Malden CLEC review and met the approval of Malden Police Chief Kevin Molis, among others. Councilor-at-Large Spadafora zeroed in on traffic concerns, noting that the revenue projections added up to an estimated $192,000 per week in sales, at $10 million in revenue per year, which he said would be 1,900 trips a week to the site, using $100 per visit as a guideline, “probably more than that,” he said. Spadafora ties finances to traffic projections “They have to get that [the $192,000 per week estimate] to be successful,” Councillor Spadafora said. “We still have to look at the traffic [impact]. Already it’s a nightmare down there.” “It’s a little bit of a challenge for me to swallow, and it’s amazing to me that in all the traffic studies presented by businesses to this Council there is never a detrimental impact to the community included,” Spadafora added. “I would hope the attached conditions to this permit will address the traffic issues.” He later voted in favor of the special permit. “I did not support this initially, but they [Misty Mountain] did all the steps and added conditions that are important to all of us. I MARIJUANAS | SEE PAGE 22

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