Merrimack Street Excluded From Hosting Marijuana Establishments

(File photograph.)

City officials have had to iron out some details with where marijuana can be sold in Haverhill, forcing them to extend a ban on opening establishments that sell the drug. (File photograph.)

The Haverhill Administration and Finance Committee took steps on Thursday to exclude Merrimack Street from being allowed to host stores selling marijuana.

During the committee’s meeting, City Solicitor William Cox advised committee members to exclude Merrimack Street from a zoning overlay identifying where in Haverhill marijuana establishments can be built. Cox said it would be advisable to exclude it because two unnamed city councilors having conflicts forbidding them from voting to allow or deny establishments from being built on the street. The committee voted unanimously to support the exclusion.

Dozens of Haverhill residents attended the meeting, with several voicing their opposition to any marijuana establishments being opened downtown, including on Washington Street, another proposed location. Amongst these concerns were the safety of children and excessive traffic. Haverhill resident Brad Brooks was concerned about the kind of negative impacts these stores could have on businesses like his, saying “I just don’t want it in Merrimack Street and Washington Street.”

Conversely, Haverhill resident Phil Rice supported marijuana sales in these areas, saying “This city would be punishing the downtown by not allowing this.”

This is in the wake of the City Council voting unanimously on Tuesday to extend a moratorium forbidding the opening of marijuana establishments until Mar. 1, 2019. The moratorium was set to expire on Dec. 1, but was extended due to delays in the zoning process.

The committee also clarified several details surrounding the minimum amount of space needed between each establishment. Cox said regulations will eventually be written saying marijuana stores must be at least half a mile apart. Those seeking to build an establishment closer would have to be approved for a special permit. The committee ruled that, upon obtaining the permit, the applicants must then alert facilities and homes within 300 feet of the proposed establishment.

Aside from Washington Street, seven other areas in Haverhill are up for approval to host the stores. These areas include east and west Amesbury Road, Research Dr., Knipe Road, Plaistow Road, River St. and South Main St.

An ordinance establishing the official zoning overlay, as well as an additional ordinance excluding Merrimack Street, are set to go before the Planning Board and the council for final approval this January.