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Selectmen cool to alternative site for medical-marijuana dispensary

Lawyer addresses building sale, U.S. attorney comments

UPDATED, Jan. 13: Last summer YourArlington reported that the medical-marijuana dispensary proposed for 11 Water St. aimed to open next June. Board of Selectmen logo, Jan. 23, 2013

Selectmen heard about a new location Monday, Jan. 8 -- this time at 789 Mass. Ave., where Bagels By Us has been doing business – and board members were cool to the idea.

They unanimously agreed to table a decision to approve the dispensary at a new location in town, to provide time to obtain more information and referrals, including from police.

Bagels By Us continues to do business at 789 Mass. Ave., the selectmen's office said Wednesday, Jan. 10.

“The Mass. Ave. location is more secure because more are people around,” said Valerio Romano, a Massachusetts Patient Foundation attorney, in requesting the board to approve the new site Jan. 8.

Selectman still prefer the Water Street location. “I like Water Street better, because it’s not a storefront, said Selectman Kevin Greeley.

“This location is across the street from historical sites, and I’m wary about how conducive that’ll be in bringing in tourists,” said Selectman Clarissa Rowe, long involved in town tourism activities.

Selectmen Chairman Joseph Curro also opposes the Mass. Ave. location. “A better choice would be in a medical building.”

Romano said: “We’ll work with the Redevelopment Board to make sure the front of store fits in with the area. It’s just a medical facility for people approved to get marijuana, and it brings people with discretionary money into town. We’ll move ahead with Water Street if can’t get Selectmen approval for Mass. Ave.”

The foundation, whose businesses include medical marijuana, presented a second letter of nonopposition, seeking board approval (one for Water Street was approved in 2016).

Selectmen approval is essential before the foundation can proceed at the Mass. Ave. location.

Even if the board agrees, the foundation still needs approval for Mass. Ave. from the town Redevelopment Board and the Board of Health. Valerio Romano, a Massachusetts Patient Foundation attorney, said it will pursue those next.

“An affirmative vote from the selectmen doesn’t mean an OK to proceed,” Romano said.

Even if we get their approval, we still need approval from the Redevelopment Board. The Board of Health has jurisdiction over this, and they have not yet approved or disapproved.”

Purchase of Bagels by Us building called possible

YourArlington contacted Romano on Jan. 10, and he said the foundation he represents could buy the Bagels By Us building. They would not buy the Water Street building, where the foundation has a lease on one unit. Other units include medical offices.

Federal statements could filter down to Arlington. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said he would allow federal prosecutors to crack down on operations in states that have legalized marijuana. In response to Sessions, Andrew E. Lelling, U.S. attorney in the Bay State, issued a statement about federal marijuana enforcement

"I cannot ... provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution," Lelling said.

That has drawn varied interpretation. Romano's take on it is, largely, not to worry.

Romano said: "There's no expected impact for Lelling if he abides by Sessions's edict because, unlike recreational marijuana that has no additional protections, medical marijuana does. The Department of Justice is prohibited from spending money on prosecuting or preventing the operations of state licensed and compliant medical-marijuana businesses."

He has previously said the Mass. Patient Foundation does not seek to pursue an outlet for recreational marijuana.

Norway maple tree to be removed

A compromised Norway maple tree at 8 Higgins St. will be cut down, per the board’s unanimous decision.

Dr. Mamary Kone, 8 Higgins St., said, “The tree is very close my house, especially my son’s room, and he’s too scared to sleep there. My neighbors and I all agree that the tree should be removed and replaced with a healthy tree.”

Normal Magnus, 12 Higgins St., explained, “The tree used to have four main branches, but one branch hit my house. This tree is a hazard to both Dr. Kone’s house and passersby, and we live near the Ottoson School where students walk to and from school.”

Selectman Greeley favors removal because of the “perception of fear by a child who’s too scared to sleep in his own room.”

Board member Rowe added, “Arlington has many Norway maples because it’s an invasive species, and we shouldn’t spend money on bad tree. Let’s give peace of mind to Dr. Kone and his neighbors from worrying about it.”

Arlington Tree Warden Timothy Lecuivre, however, suggested keeping the tree, because “There’s no indication of any hazard. The Norway maple is a protected tree, and it can be pruned and dead branches removed.”

DPW Construction exempt from reduced hours

Selectmen voted unanimously to exempt the Department of Public Works (DPW) and public utilities that work on and in public and private ways from the restricted hours of operation approved at the 2017 annual Town Meeting.

“If these new hours of operation apply to the DPW and public utilities, it will be substantially more difficult to improve roadways and the utilities contained therein in a cost-effective and efficient manner,” wrote Town Counsel Doug Heim in a memo.

Construction activity was previously permitted on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on weekends and holidays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Those hours were changed to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

Don’t waste your food!

As part of Arlington’s continued effort to reduce waste, the Department of Public Works is initiating a food-scrap program.

Charlotte Milan, Arlington’s recycling coordinator said, “We invite our neighbors to join this pilot program to determine the town’s interest and actual demand. We hope to have three locations to start: (1) near the DPW on Grove Street; (2) near the skating rink, adjacent to the bike path, on Summer Street; and (3) in the Waldo Park neighborhood. The units are movable and, if necessary, we can add more in the future.”
Selectmen unanimously approved this free, voluntary pilot program.

Arlington may test autonomous vehicle

The board unanimously agreed to authorize an application and memorandum of understanding that would allow the process to start for Arlington, along with several other communities and MassDOT, to be a test site for autonomous vehicles.

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said, “This would show our residents that Arlington is taking a leading-edge view of a technology that’s coming down the pike and that would affect Arlington’s transportation needs.”

“The future is coming, and it’s best if we think about this now," said Curro.

New library board trustee

Selectmen unanimously approved Jonathan Gates as a Robbins Library Board trustee. Gates, a 20-year Arlington resident, has a strong background in product management including strategic planning, program implementation and product marketing.

“I want to give back to my community. I’ve seen my kids’ excitement at the library. The library can make a difference to not just kids and teens, but the community at large,” Gates said.

Selectmen assigned Byrne's committee positions

In the wake of Selectman Steve Byrne’s departure from the board Dec. 11, the following selectmen will assume his committee responsibilities:

Clarissa Rowe: Community Development Block Grant program liaison;

Joseph Curro: Parking Implementation/Governance Committee member;

Kevin Greeley: Selectman designee to School Committee liaison; and

Diane Mahon: Snow-and-ice subcommittee member.

Perspective: Salon, Jan. 12, 2018: Experts predict 4 surprising ways Jeff Sessions’ reefer madness pot decision could shake out in 2018
July 12, 2017: Water St. medical-marijuana dispensary a year away, attorney says
Nov. 8, 2016: Redevelopment Board approves medical-marijuana dispensary
April 13, 2016: Selectmen take 3rd step toward dispensary after 7 object 

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, and updated Jan. 13.

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