Haverhill Council Subcommittee OKs Downtown Marijuana Zoning

A City Council subcommittee recommended downtown be zoned for retail marijuana sales at a meeting Tuesday. (File photograph)

Downtown Haverhill is one step closer to seeing potential marijuana dispensaries move in, after a City Council subcommittee voted to approve retail zoning along the city’s waterfront district.

Tuesday’s Administration and Finance meeting, attended by Chairperson Colin F. LePage, Councilors Melinda E. Barrett and William J. Macek, Council President John A. Michitson and Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan, followed a series of site visits to commercial highway and downtown areas to assess zoning possibilities.

Using a draft ordinance from City Solicitor Bill Cox, the subcommittee recommended that the full Council review the ordinance and associated zones at their Sept. 11 meeting. Once the Council approves the working document, it heads to the Planning Board—likely in October—for a public hearing.

As outlined Tuesday, two waterfront districts were zoned for marijuana retail operation. One zone includes Washington Street and select areas of Emerson, Locust and Granite Streets and portions of Railroad Square. The second waterfront zone welcomes a marijuana retailer to the area as long as the location has frontage on Merrimack Street.

At the meeting, councilors collaboratively pored over maps to align zones with the previously drafted ordinance. Per state regulations, Haverhill needs to allow the opportunity for up to six licenses to be issued, which correlates to 20 percent of the number of liquor licenses issued in the city.

In all instances, buffer zones are in place. At Tuesday’s meeting, LePage, Barrett and Macek revised the ordinance their colleagues will see to stipulate that in the downtown zones, schools, churches, licensed childcare facilities and libraries within 250 feet of a potential dispensary must be notified. Those businesses may also contest the opening.

Caroline Pineau has her chance at a retail shop prioritized as a Cannabis Control Commission economic empowerment applicant. Given Tuesday’s progress, Pineau looks forward to what’s next.

“There’s a palpable energy in the City of Haverhill that I very strongly identify with: It’s the community, the people here, the potential of this city and the business community,” the Yoga Tree owner tells WHAV. “I’m looking forward to putting my efforts into this new project just like I have with my other business and do the best job I can for the City of Haverhill.”

Pineau has worked for the last several months with Haverhill architect Matt Juros of Fishbrook Design on a “safe, sophisticated and discreet” dispensary called STEM. As her project continues to take shape, Pineau welcomes feedback from all members of the community.

Reaction so far, she says, has been pretty positive.

“I have been really excited about hearing fellow business owners and residents choosing to focus on the positives about what this type of enterprise can mean for Haverhill,” the entrepreneur said. “I think that’s the path forward: To focus on the positive.”

Other areas of the city zoned for retail marijuana include Amesbury Road (in the area of Elliott and Alice Streets), sections of Knipe, Boston, River and South Main Streets and portions of Plaistow Road. Marijuana establishments are prohibited in the areas of Lincoln Avenue and Westgate Plaza, the council subcommittee decided.