Council Candidate, Realtor Sue City, Pineau Over Proposed Downtown Marijuana Store

(File photograph.)

Correction: A previous version of this article contained incorrect information about a 10th Circuit Court case involving Healthy Pharms. Nathanson & Goldberg, P.C. was not involved in this case. Instead, two separate cases–Crimson Galeria et als. v. Healthy Pharms, Inc. et als. and Crimson Galeria et als. v. Healthy Pharms, Inc. et als. were litigated in Massachusetts Superior Court and federal court respectively. Both cases were settled through a confidential agreement. WHAV regrets the error.

Original story:

A candidate for City Council has joined forces with a downtown business owner and local Realtor to bring suit against the City of Haverhill and Caroline Pineau on the eve of her Stem special permit hearing, alleging that her proposed Washington Street marijuana dispensary will “destroy” the downtown business district, WHAV has confirmed.

Caroline Pineau hopes to open the Stem marijuana shop at 124 Washington St. (WHAV News photograph)

Candidate and Mark’s Deli owner Stavros Dimakis, real estate agent J. Bradford Brooks—a former City Councilor himself—and Lloyd Jennings brought suit against Pineau May 30 contesting the validity of zoning for her proposed shop at 124 Washington St. In papers filed in Boston’s Land Court by plaintiffs’ Boston-based attorneys’ Alvin S. Nathanson and Scott A. Schlager, Pineau has been ordered to appear at a hearing on Friday in which Judge Robert B. Foster will hear a case for a preliminary injunction.

As outlined in the filing, Dimakis, Brooks and Jennings are petitioning the court to prevent Pineau’s special permit hearing scheduled for June 18.

Should Stem open for business, the downtown district could be doomed, say the plaintiffs. As WHAV has widely reported, the City of Haverhill engaged in a yearlong process to carefully determine zoning for retail marijuana, and instituted a 500-foot buffer zone to protect children from the drug.

The plaintiffs argue Stem will “arbitrarily and unreasonably change the existing character of the neighborhood by increasing congestion in the streets…endangering children…and frequent patrons at Mark’s Deli.” The men also believe Stem will “destroy” both the desirability and property value of downtown property values, including the building that houses the Hidden Pig restaurant.

When contacted by WHAV, representatives from Stem and Haverhill’s City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. declined to comment for this story.

Brooks and Jennings own 128-130 Washington St., while Dimakis leases property from Evthokia Realty Trust at 2 Railroad Square and owns Mark’s Deli.

The men also allege Pineau’s host community agreement—inked with Mayor James J. Fiorentini in December 2018—includes a contract clause that confers what they deem “special privilege” between both Pineau and the City. The suit alleges Stem’s agreement has a “most favored nations” clause, stating in effect should another marijuana business sign an agreement that it will pay a lesser percentage of profits generated from retail recreational marijuana profits to the City of Haverhill, then the Stem host agreement will be renegotiated to match any more favorable deal.”

Also contained in the court filing is the idea that Haverhill’s zoning ordinance is in conflict with federal law. WHAV has confirmed that the plaintiffs’ attorneys brought—and lost—a similar case in the 10th Circuit Court in August 2018 involving the zoning of Healthy Pharms. As locals remember, Healthy Pharms unsuccessfully explored options to open a location in Haverhill.

The recent suit appears to be a change of tune for the Mark’s Deli owner. Back in July 2018, Dimakis’ wife Julie was among the first to support Pineau’s venture when The Yoga Tree studio owner canvassed the downtown district and asked neighbors to sign her petition for “Safe, Regulated Cannabis Zoning in Downtown Haverhill.” Julie Dimakis’ signature was 10th on the list of more than 30 residents, merchants and business representatives. She listed both her home and business address when signing.

Jennings and Brooks were the only two Haverhill residents to speak out in opposition of Pineau’s store when she came before the Planning Board to outline her plans in January 2019. At that meeting, neighbors heralded the 32-year-old’s business plan as a “home run,” while Planning Board member Karen Buckley reminded colleagues that the ordinance was ironed out by several local leaders before them with great care.

In doing so, she offered a succinct summary of what several City Councilors have echoed in recent weeks.

“Months have gone into evaluating the various locations that are recommended,” Buckley said. “This was not ‘throw a dart at the board,’ or ‘let’s look at where we can make the most money.’ There were some very serious considerations so that the locations were in fact suitable.”

Pineau is one of four business owners looking to open dispensaries in the City of Haverhill. CNA Stores is pursuing a location at 558 River St., while Full Harvest Moonz hopes to open at 101 Plaistow Road and Mellow Fellows is considering doing business on Amesbury Road.

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