The Zoning Board of Appeal today approved marijuana shops at 430-454 Blue Hill Ave. in Grove Hall and 591 Albany St. in the South End.
In both cases, the approval does not mean the shops can actually open, only that they can now apply to the state Cannabis Control Commission, which would have to decide whether to grant licenses.
In Grove Hall, a plan by Kobie Evans and Kevin Hart for a shop called Pure Oasis were opposed by several local organizations, including the Grove Hall Neighborhood Development Council, which built the Mecca complex, Freedom House, which provides classes for high-school and college students, and Project Right, as well as local residents.
Along with officials from those groups, Deborah Irene Bolling - sister of the late City Councilor Bruce Bolling, for whom the Bolling Building is named, and former state Rep. Royal Bolling and daughter of the late state Sen. Royal Bolling - said the site in particular is a bad location for a marijuana store because of traffic problems, its proximity to Burke High School and along the routes many students take through Grove Hall.
A dispensary would not send the sort of positive message neighborhood residents want their kids to absorb, she said.
Bolling added she would oppose a marijuana establishment anywhere in the neighborhood. Grove Hall, she said, "is the most densely populated area in the city of Boston and the most soulful area in the city of Boston. Any other place or any other time in the city of Boston, but not Grove Hall!."
The board had initially heard Evans and Hart two weeks ago but delayed any vote because of general concerns over security and specifically over how the shop would deal with customer queuing. Evans, Hart and their security consultant - former BPD Superintendent Daniel Linskey - said they would convert an empty storefront next to theirs into a waiting area to keep customers off the street. Linskey, who acknowledged "some challenges with criminality in the area," said he was planning an extensive security-camera system that BPD could tie into to keep watch over the surrounding area.
The board voted 5-1 in favor of the proposal, with only member Anthony Pisani voting against. Member Bruce Bickerstaff did not take part in the discussion or vote because he is himself a part owner of a concern looking to get into the Boston marijuana market.
After the vote, acting board Chairman Mark Erlich cautioned Evans and Hart to take into account the "very powerful and very persuasive" arguments made by Bolling and others and not make the board regret its vote.
Also today, the board approved a proposal by a company called Liberty Compassion for a medical-marijuana dispensary at 591 Albany St. at East Canton Street.
Its proposal did not attract the same number of opponents as the Grove Hall one. However, an attorney for development company Leggat McCall, which is building a 650-unit residential complex next door, opposed a dispensary in what he called a "transitional area" - one he said is transitioning into a "living, breathing part of the city," one that doesn't need any marijuana places, especially not one so close to existing drug-treatment centers.