Amesbury Road Neighbors Ask Council ‘Do We Matter?’ Amid Marijuana Special Permit Debate

Shattuck Street's Chris Todino spoke in opposition of both Mellow Fellows and Haverwell Market on Aug. 20. (WHAV News photograph)

Tuesday’s marijuana special permit process for Mellow Fellows and Haverwell Market left many unanswered—and unexpected—questions after the five-hour meeting, but one thing is for certain: Haverhill city councilors did hear the pleas of Amesbury Road neighbors.

During a public hearing for both the Haverhill-based Mellow Fellows trio and Newburyport businessman Christopher Edwards from Haverwell Market, residents expressed concern over everything from property values to crime and even the packaging of edibles. Shop owners—and councilors—patiently heard each concern.

Shattuck Street resident Chris Todino has attended most if not all of the previous cannabis-related public meetings, and stood with his neighbors to ask the council to deny both permits.

“I understand there is a great opportunity from a revenue perspective, but we live in the neighborhood,” he said. “We don’t want this in our neighborhood. At the end of the day, I want all of you to think about that: Do we matter?”

His passionate plea did not fall on deaf ears. Councilors Thomas J. Sullivan and Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien told him and other neighbors that spoke that the group was given the tall order of not only choosing appropriate zones for the shops, and carefully assessing each application individually based on merits—and potential pitfalls.

Both the Mellow Fellows and Edwards—backed by Haverwell Market attorney Bill Faraci—understood that zoning was not to be considered during Tuesday’s hearing. In fact, according to the Mellow Fellows, zoning actually dictated where they could pursue a lease.

Faraci tried to get to the bare bones of the issue. “The zoning was specifically chosen after study as a place where this is appropriate and we are meeting that requirement. Anything that you want to say about this being the wrong place is answered by the ordinance.”

Faraci and Edwards also attempted to alleviate neighbor concerns about crime. According to the attorney, a marijuana shop with added video surveillance and security staff would deter crime rather than contribute to it.

“People aren’t going to do their drug deals with security guards and cameras right there,” he said. “There’s no reason to believe that we’re transporting criminals to Dunkin Donuts to Pear Tree Lane. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Although Tuesday’s permit hearings were mixed—Haverwell’s meeting was tabled until Sept. 24 while the Mellow Fellows received the go ahead—Joseph J. Bevilacqua told locals to consider the night a success because their voices were heard.

Summed up Bevilacqua: “Residents do matter—this is your city.”

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