Confusion Causes Haverhill Councilors to Reconsider Marijuana Parking Space Vote Next Week

Stem's Caroline Pineau consults with Attorney Thomas K. MacMillan during a City Council meeting in 2019. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Controversy over marijuana retailing continued to perplex Haverhill city councilors Tuesday night.

Councilors believed they had approved a police department-recommended parking license for Haverhill Stem on Washington Street, but the vote actually fell short because of opposition from City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua and member absences. Councilors voted 4-1 to approve the use of two city-owned parking spaces on Phoenix Row, but five votes were required. The confusion was evident when acting Council President Thomas J. Sullivan assessed the vote.

“We will assume it was a motion to pass and we will get a clarification from the city solicitor on that. Ok? That’s it for now for that. It’s highly unusual not to have enough councilors here,” Sullivan said.

As it turns out, unlike the School Committee, vote tallies count the full City Council roster, not just those who are present. As such, members are expected to revisit the matter next Tuesday. Perhaps, complicating the situation, is the Council’s own rule not to revisit a settled matter for six months. Those rules, however, allow those requirements to be waived. Councilor Colin F. LePage recommended City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. decide the matter.

When Stem, 124 Washington St., was granted its special permit last June, councilors conditioned the approval on the adult-use marijuana shop licensing two parking space from the city. The Haverhill Police Department said the spaces would aid security during product deliveries and money transfers. The city intended to lease the spaces on terms similar to those granted to other downtown businesses.

The motion to approve came from Councilors Melinda E. Barrett with a second by LePage. They received support from Councilors Timothy J. Jordan and Sullivan. Bevilacqua, who has opposed all such establishments, voted no. Councilor Michael S. McGonagle abstained because of his ownership interest in Amesbury Road property to be rented by marijuana retailer Mellow Fellows. Council President John A. Michitson and Councilors William J. Macek and Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien were absent.

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