City Council Opposes Traffic and Parking Studies for New Marijuana Establishments

File photograph. (Image licensed by Ingram Image.)

The prospect of Council-mandated traffic and parking studies for any proposed marijuana establishments in Haverhill was suggested by City Council President John A. Michitson after resident feedback. (File photograph.)

The Haverhill City Council Tuesday rejected the possibility of proposed marijuana shops having to undergo traffic studies. The council voted four to four, with the tie vote killing a request by City Council President John A. Michitson to have the council decide the need for traffic studies on a case-by-case basis. The question came in response to concerns stemming from the potential sales of marijuana on Washington Street, downtown. Michitson’s request originally would have made the studies mandatory, but Councilor William J. Macek made the suggestion to instead have the Council vote on whether or not to require studies.

Michitson admitted the idea for the study came about after a meeting of the Haverhill Administration and Finance Committee Nov. 29 where residents voiced their concerns over the sale of marijuana anywhere downtown. Michitson originally proposed Washington Street to be the sole focus of the study, but choose to include all applicants after feedback from residents.

“What happened was I got a lot of feedback and most of it was negative and it all came down to fairness; that we not take a poke at only one entry; that we allow all of the entries to have to submit to a traffic and parking study if they’re going to propose a retail marijuana shop,” Michitson said.

Councilor Melinda E. Barrett said the implementation of these studies was unnecessary, saying “it just seems this is almost an overreaction to it.” Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua supported the studies, saying they would be beneficial to the Haverhill community.

“The reason why I supported the motion is just common sense. I think we have an obligation to the residents of the community, as well as the businesses of the community, to understand how these new shops will, in fact, impact businesses and the community at-large,” Bevilacqua said.

Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan and Councilors Barrett, Colin F. LePage and Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien voted against the proposal, while Michitson and Councilors Bevilacqua, Timothy J. Jordan and William J. Macek voted for the proposal. Councilor Michael S. McGonagle abstained from voting due to his two brothers-in-law entering into a business agreement related to marijuana sales.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini announced after the vote he would still require parking and traffic information on any host community agreement formed for marijuana establishments on Washington Street. Sullivan disagreed with the mayor, saying “I don’t think this information is necessary.”