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Dorchester company that makes cables for the military sues zoning board for approving cannabis shop across the street; says it's worried it could lose federal contracts

A military contractor and a landlord on a desolate industrial dead end sandwiched between the Expressway and the Red Line and commuter-rail tracks are suing the Zoning Board of Appeal for approving a dispensary on the street, arguing the shop will disrupt their deliveries and shipments and prove hazardous to anybody trying to walk there from the nearby JFK/UMass Red Line stop because the street has no sidewalks.

In the lawsuit, filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court, First Electronics Corp., at 71 Von Hillern St., which makes military-specification cables and related equipment, argues the proposed CNA Store at 70 Von Hillern, could also jeopardize its business:

FEC is concerned that the proximity of the medical marijuana dispensary (right outside its front door) could significantly impair its ability to secure government and defense contracts, as marijuana is still an illegal narcotic under Federal Law.

Even aside from that, the company, and Von Hillern Donovan, which owns two other buildings on the street, argue the new shop will mean security concerns:

This is not an area that the public typically frequents, which will change if the recreational marijuana dispensary is built, which will require VHD and FEC to enact more stringent security measures to address a different population that will be attracted to Von Hilleren Street.

The two argue the zoning board ignored requirements for the conditional permit the shop needs when it voted unanimously to approve the proposal at a June hearing, including that the proposal not harm the surrounding neighborhood and that it not become a hazard to an area's pedestrians and drivers.

FEC and VHD submit that the end of a street consisting almost entirely of a manufacturing is not appropriate location for any retail establishment, let alone a marijuana dispensary.

In their suit, the two say Von Hillern, as a narrow street with no sidewalks, is just barely workable as what is essentially an industrial driveway and that the 250 extra car trips a day they say the street's first retail shop will mean will cause problems both for the drivers of trucks making deliveries and picking stuff up and for existing workers who navigate the street on their way to and from JFK/UMass. They add that CNA's workers - whom CNA says it will give CharlieCards to encourage them to take the T instead of driving - would also be put at risk.

At a June 7 hearing, a CNA attorney said that while no parking is required for a cannabis shop, CNA would be providing seven parking spaces.

If approved by the state Cannabis Control Commission, the shop would be the company's third operation in Massachusetts and first in Boston.

City Councilor Frank Baker supported the proposal; at the June hearing, nobody spoke against, although a liaison from the city Office of Neighborhood Services said that at an abutters meeting, nearby business owners, including First Electric, voiced concern that the street was "poorly lit" and already had issues with "loitering and other illicit activities."

The suit asks a judge to throw out the board's approval of the proposed shop.

June 7 hearing:

PDF icon Complete complaint309.72 KB

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more stringent security measures to address a different population that will be attracted to Von Hilleren Street.

So what you mean is the 'undesirables'? I mean come on.. these folks clearly have never been outside a pot shop in recent years. This is just silly.

And unless there's some federal guideline (and there's not because its illegal the eyes of the fed) and none of the employees shop at the pot shop across the street (assuming they drug test for said federal contracts). I think they are OK. Thats about all they should be concerned with.

Traffic, people, etc... is pretty baseless.

Voting closed 31

It seems like a pretty terrible location for a non-industrial business to open, especially given the large amount of empty store fronts in the city.

Voting closed 44

That street is so narrow that sidewalks can't be added unless you remove all of the on-street parking. It's not a place I'd want to encourage people to walk. Also, the only access from JFK/UMass station is a very uninviting stairway off an entrance ramp to northbound I-93.

Voting closed 32

there is a stairway? I thought that whole area was cut off dead end.

Voting closed 5

Top of stairway

Bottom of stairway is only barely visible at right, and appears to be engulfed in weeds (how appropriate)

Voting closed 13

I worked for this company for quite a few years and many of the staff have to submit to constitutional oaths and government non-disclosure agreements. I was under such NDA for a 30-year period after leaving them, meaning I could not talk about any work I did there for 30-years after my last day of employment.

While I would venture there is nothing there that would be worth any resale value if stolen, beyond what might be lifted from any other business establishment, there would be very serious concerns from the perception of those that do business with them. The building is quite removed from the public on a dead-end street and the only auto and foot traffic comes from those that work there by a majority.

People doing business there would be other government subcontractors that are further up on the supply chain and the military itself directly. They also do custom design work for other commercial interests. So included is water, air, space, land, and rail.

If the perception of the government sees this as a risky location, they would lose business.

They are a significant business that employs people with specific skills and also trains new people in those skills as a matter of on-the-job training. If they have to move to preserve their reputation, Boston and that neighborhood would lose a rather significant, though greatly unknown employer.

While I was trained in electronics, my years there was a major boost to my on-the-job experience and eventually led from the hand-on assembly station to an office with a staff under me when I moved on.

Voting closed 58

You convinced me!

Voting closed 19

If DOD considers proximity to a dispensary a security issue, then either there is a record of them saying so, or specific cases that demonstrate that DOD has threatened to discontinue a business relationship because of proximity to a dispensary.

I'm not going to say that's impossible, dmk, but it is unlikely. I also worked with national security protected material, had security clearances, etc. (That I held a Q clearance for 10 years should be considered evidence of just how silly the QAnon folks are for believing it sprinkle fairy dust on holders). I worked in a few different locations. Some were less salubrious than others. It is certainly possible that First Electronics Corp may need to increase its security measures to maintain their contracts should the dispensary open on Von Hillern, but that might be the case if anything increased traffic on the street. If they need to control the traffic, they should offer to buy the building in question, or try to get the area rezoned to ban all retail.

I doubt they need to do that for security purposes, although it may make their own work and transportation logistics less of a headache.

I just looked at a map of where dispensaries are in downtown Boston, and they are located within 5-10 minute walks of the CIA office, Homeland Security, FBI, State Department, Federal Protective Service, and Coast Guard headquarters. Anyone who lived on or near a military base in the past 50 years knows that at least some of the streets outside base gates become littered with strip joins, bars, brothels (legal or illegal), and other variations on a theme of "adult entertainment." There's a weed dispensary about 2 blocks from the gate at Luke AFB in Phoenix.

If First Electronics expects a problem from DOD, they should be able to offer proof that it will be an issue.

Voting closed 22

As a not-so-proud graduate of DoD's Acquisition 101 class, I feel pretty confident in saying there's no way the DoD could discriminate against a business based on its neighbors.

Voting closed 16

then it seems like the responsibility is on them to figure that out, perhaps by purchasing or leasing the surrounding buildings and renting them out to other companies that fit their needs? I don't really see why one business gets to dictate what other businesses can be located near them, unless we're going to let McDonald's declare that it would be bad for them to have a Burger King nearby or whatever.

Voting closed 19

It isn't the customers that create risk. The only risk factor's are that it is an all cash business that is forced to set up out of sight. If this shop was on Dot Ave it would be safer but oh noes!!!

Voting closed 8

My company has all sorts of government contracts. Not once has "who are your neighbors?" or "how close is marijuana?" been even a topic of discussion on any of our paperwork.

This is FUD over nothing. The location is a stone's throw from JFK/UMass. It's a one mile walk from there to all of UMass Boston/Columbia Point, Uphams Corner, Savin Hill, South Bay, and all of Andrew's Square. You can walk to it from the north or south.

If these guys want privacy and exclusivity, they can move to somewhere in Braintree. They're literally 3 miles from downtown. If the street is "bad for pedestrians, etc." then let's FIX THE STREET.

Hey, if we were lucky, we'd already be putting aside money to bury the trains AND the highway and reconnect that part of South Boston with the rest of Dorchester better.

Voting closed 23

Idk man, I think the plant is a lot less harmful to people than the cables depending on the killing capacity of what they're used in.

Voting closed 16

dude, where`s my contract?

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possible that just like in the movie Conspiracy Theory they don't want you to know what they do in their industrial building.

they could be in there, hurting Mel Gibson

Voting closed 6

where they're here to fix the cable.

Voting closed 9

Right next to the cannabis shop? Just to say FU to this landlord?

Voting closed 13

That’s a bad spot for a dispensary but this whole thing is some boomer “drugs bad” bullshit.

Voting closed 17

Lvl 420 nimby achieved

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It's the real estate!

The family that owns FEC also owns the building.

And losing Federal contracts is complete bs. Their main customer, BAE has an office and massive "secret" testing facility next to Reefer City out in the Mojave desert that has a dispensary right. next. door.

Where they work on, among other things, controlling fighter jets without pilots.

I think the local cable guy will be fine.

Voting closed 7

Columbia Road near Intervale Street?

Voting closed 6