A North Grafton man's proposal to turn the decrepit and now closed Supreme House of Pizza at 313 Old Colony Ave. in South Boston into a modern recreational-marijuana shop met with heavy opposition at a community meeting this evening - just a day after the owner of the pizza place withdrew his application to deliver pizza until 2:45 a.m. on weekends.
The Andrew Square and City Point civic associations, City Councilors Ed Flynn, Michael Flaherty, Erin Murphy and Frank Baker all opposed the proposed Simplicity Dispensary, along with state Sen. Nick Collins. The Gavin Foundation, which runs treatment programs in the area, also came out strongly against the proposal.
Opposition focused on the fundamentally unsafe nature of the rotary the shop would be on, the fact that tons of kids pass the spot to and from the park, the beach, church and preschool, the presence of people with addiction issues that would be enticed to buy a gram or two and the existing spillover from Mass and Cass of stumbling drug users and serious drinkers.
The shop "would only increase problems in this area," an aide to Collins said.
Colonel Boothe, though, said his Simplicity Dispensary would make the block, already known as a neighborhood trouble spot and hangout for drug and alcohol abusers far safer and attractive, certainly much more so than the current ramshackle building that houses what was until recently Supreme House of Pizza, along with a liquor store and a check-cashing place.
He said he and his partners would invest $1.3 million renovating the space - for which he said he was already paying rent - and would work with the building owners to spruce up the rest of the building. He said that in addition to the security cameras the city would require him to install, he would install additional cameras on the plaza-like space in front of the building.
Referring to the people who now congregate in front of and near the stores drinking and tossing trash around, he said, "once we are operating, we will put a stop to that in our area."
He said the three shops would share ten parking spaces and said he expects his business to primarily come from the surrounding neighborhood, not from people from away getting lost and futilely trying to navigate the rotary.
Still, he said he would station a worker on the street at busy times to shoo away anybody trying to double park on Old Colony or even in the rotary itself. He added he hopes to start a courier service for home deliveries, which would further reduce any possible traffic and parking issues.
He added that windows would have frosted glass to keep kids from peering inside - and that, in any case, his staff would bar entry to anybody under 21.
Boothe said South Boston is currently underserved by cannabis shops and that he is aiming to open the shop by June. To do so, he'll need a "host community agreement" with the Boston Cannabis Board, approval of the Zoning Board of Appeal and signoff by the state Cannabis Control Commission.
But few people on the Zoomed meeting bought his arguments.
Bill Bailey of the City Point Neighborhood Association said his neighborhood is already plagued with hordes of people who have marijuana delivered to the beach and then spend the night "passing out and urinating" throughout the neighborhood.
"We don't want it in City Point, we don't want it in Andrew Square, we don't want it in the neighborhood, we are dead set against it," Bailey said.
Also, some residents said, they don't care what pot shops say - marijuana is a gateway drug.
Dave Decourcey of the Gavin Foundation said the foundation is "adamantly opposed" to the shop because of the temptation it would mean for the "very vulnerable population of people in Gavin programs within a few blocks of the site.
Andrew Square Civic Association President Linda Zablocki said she voted for legalized marijuana, but that the specific location is just wrong. She said Boothe can talk all he wants about trying to improve the block or the rotary but her group has been trying for years with no success.
Roger Danchik, who lives next to the building, said his yard is constantly filled with trash left over from the neighborhood vagrants - whom he said sometimes make it difficult for him to just get inside his house because they sit on his steps.
"I do not need potheads around, and it's not because I'm not used to pot," he said. "I was a rock and roll roadie for 10 years and I'm very used to it."
Mary Moore held photos up to her camera of people loitering in front of the current shop - and of a gaggle of children walking by it. She said no matter how nicely Boothe renovates his space, it would still be "a business with a secretive and highly securitized feel to it."
She told Boothe it was time to think of the children, that "we deserve a business and location that is welcoming and inviting and fun for the whole community, including the kids," she said. "Something fun - an ice cream shop or a coffee shop."
Imagine if that were a pot shop all those kids were walking by:
Dr. Bita Zahedi, however, criticized elected officials who said the shop would worsen already bad conditions at the rotary - if they're so concerned, she asked, why haven't they been doing anything earlier? At least Boothe has presented "the first proposal I've ever seen to improve the corner," one that "at a minimum [would bring] some level of security to this corner."