Pot shop dreams

Haverhill businesswoman Caroline Pineau, who operates The Yoga Tree, is preparing an application to open the city’s first recreational cannabis shop.AMANDA SABGA/Staff photo

Legal Marijuana Massachusetts

FILE - In this July 12, 2018, file photo, newly transplanted cannabis cuttings grow in soilless media in pots at Sira Naturals medical marijuana cultivation facility, in Milford, Mass.  (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

HAVERHILL — Several downtown businessmen are suing the city to block a pot shop from moving onto Washington Street in the heart of downtown. The suit says the city acted improperly when setting up the zoning that allows pot shops to move into the area.

The suit states the zoning violates the constitutional rights of neighboring property owners, violates federal narcotics laws and is detrimental to the city and its residents.

A copy of the suit, which was provided to The Eagle-Tribune by City Solicitor William Cox, lists the plaintiffs as Bradford Brooks, a local realty professional, Llyod Jennings, a local contractor, both of whom are listed in the suit as trustees of L&B Realty Trust, and Steve Dimakis of Mark's Deli, who is listed as a trustee of the Evthokia Realty Trust.

Cox said the suit alleges the zoning that allows for a pot shop in that area of the downtown is not legal and was not done correctly. The plaintiffs are asking the state Land Court to rule on the validity of that zoning, he said.

The suit specifically targets 124 Washington St., which for years housed the Sons of Italy, and which is where Caroline Pineau has proposed opening a pot shop under the name Haverhill Stem LLC. The suit indicates Pineau is leasing the building from The Westland Group LLC, which is also named in the suit.

Pineau is scheduled to go before the City Council on June 18 to request a special permit, but the suit is also seeking to interrupt that request.

Cox said he was notified on Wednesday that a hearing on the suit will be heard in Land Court at noon on Friday.

"What they are seeking is an injunction against the city from going forward with Caroline Pineau's permit application," Cox said. "In terms of what results the suit may have, I can't tell you anything at this time."

The suit notes that 124 Washington St. abuts, is connected to, and is between the properties owned by and under the control of L&B Realty Trust.

"We just received this on Tuesday, and we're still reviewing it," Cox said on Wednesday. "But it appears there are some federal claims raised in the lawsuit and we will most likely seek to have it removed to federal district court."

Cox said those claims indicate the zoning for a pot shop violates federal law.

According to City Clerk Linda Koutoulas, the following organizations have applied for special permits to open retail marijuana shops in Haverhill: Full Harvest Moonz, Haverhill Stem LLC, CNA Stores Inc., Mellow Fellows and Haverwell Market LLC.

The suit claims that the zoning that was enacted in January by the City Council and which allows for a pot shop in the waterfront district, "arbitrarily and unreasonably changes the existing character of the neighborhood by increasing congestion in the streets, causing an overcrowding of land, diminishing the adequate provision of transportation, endangering children at nearby schools and frequent patrons at Mark's Deli, endangering children who visit and frequently use the multiple parks within 500 feet of the property, cause disturbing noises incident to increased traffic and marijuana business operations, noxious smells, and destroying the attractive surroundings created by residential nature of the existing district with a stigmatized marijuana use, all of which will destroy the desirability and value of property in the district, including plaintiff's properties."

The suit also notes that although the sale or possession of marijuana no longer violates Massachusetts law, possession and distribution remain serious federal offenses under federal law. 

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