The Zoning Board of Appeal today approved a proposed cannabis shop at 882 South St., next to Hong Kong 888 - but ordered it shut on Sundays because it's mainly in a residential neighborhood.
The proposal - which would include removing the grates that have long been pulled down over much of the building and which would keep Hong Kong 888 in place - now goes before the state Cannabis Control Commission for its review.
Board Chairwoman Christine Araujo, a Roslindale resident who walks by the building regularly on walks up to the Arboretum, voted in favor, but harshly criticized building owner Rick Ovesen for the grates that have long covered the part of the building where Tex's BBQ used to be. She said that when Hong Kong 888 was approved, like 15 years ago, one proviso was that the godawful grates be removed, but they weren't.
"Why should we consider this, that will be financially highly beneficial to you, when you've presented a very negative face to the community, for the past, as long as I can remember?" she asked Ovesen, who is partnering with Mitch Rosenfield on the proposed marijuana shop, the Hempest. The two are neighbors in Roslindale, and Rosenfield owns a hemp-based clothing store on Newbury Street, also called the Hempest.
She contrasted the building to the former eyesore market the next block up that Green T has turned into a neighborhood coffee shop that has been "a phenomenal asset to that neighborhood" and questioned how she could trust the duo to keep up the building's look based on how long the building has been an eyesore.
Ovesen acknowledged the grates "have been an eyesore forever." He said he and his father, who used to use part of the building for his plumbing-supply company, had hoped to take them down earlier, but past efforts to find tenants - possibly a tanning salon, possibly a pizza place - just never happened.
Rosenfield added that the grated-up part of the building is in considerable disrepair inside and needs extensive renovation work. Rosenfield said that the fact that both he and Ovesen actually live in the neighborhood means they have a great incentive to improve the look of the property, that unlike the out-of-town owners at some other shops elsewhere in the city, "we have a vested interest in making it something beneficial to the neighborhood" in which they are raising their kids.
Araujo and other members also expressed concern about traffic on South Walter Street, almost more of an alley, between the building and Henry's Market, which is already often narrowed by people parking on what passes for sidewalks and is used as a shortcut by local drivers and T bus drivers seeking to avoid the lights at Robert Street on their way from the area of the Arboretum to Roslindale Square.
Rosenfield said that it will take another year or 18 months before the state commission would approve the proposal, by which time the demand on any one marijuana shop in the area will be greatly reduced, so he's not expecting long lines of people. Also, he said, the shop is near numerous bus lines in Roslindale Square and there is plenty of parking - both in a municipal lot on the other side of the train tracks behind Citizens Bank and on the street nearby. And, he said, he's looking at curbside pickup for customers.
Still, members noted that, unlike other pot places that have come before them in the past, the store is in what is mainly a residential area. The board voted to approve the proposal, but agreed to a proposal by Araujo that the store not be allowed to open on Sundays, "so residents will have relief from dealing with parking and visitors into the area" and to require Ovesen and Rosenfield to come before the board a year after the place opens so that the board can consider its impact on the neighborhood.
Rosenfield said the shop, which would employ 15 to 20 people, would be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. He had planned reduced hours on Sundays.
The board also sent the proposal to the BPDA for extensive "design review," not only of the facade of the marijuana shop and the Chinese take-out place, but for the six-unit apartment building behind the commercial part of the building.
The mayor's office supported the proposal. City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo did not have an aide in the meeting to say how he felt. The Longfellow Area Neighborhood Association voted its "non-opposition" to the proposal. But a manager at the Longfellow House senior complex across the street sent a letter in opposition.