Saugus officials sue Lynn City Council over proposed pot shop
Town officials in Saugus have sued the Lynn City Council and a prospective recreational marijuana company, claiming the proposed store location will be several inches over the town line in Saugus, where voters have banned recreational marijuana shops.
The complaint, which was filed in state Land Court on Monday, alleges that about 10 inches of the building, a third of an outdoor deck, most of the parking spaces, and a dumpster at the site are all located in Saugus. The Saugus selectmen who filed the lawsuit are requesting that the court invalidate the special permit given to the marijuana company, Massachusetts Green Retail, by Lynn’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
“The site contains inadequate parking and space to maneuver around the existing parking lot,” Debra Panetta, chairman of the Saugus Board of Selectman, wrote in an e-mail. “There are no measures in place for limiting the proposed use and parking to Lynn and not in Saugus.”
Jordan Avery, the CEO of Massachusetts Green Retail, said that simply isn’t true.
“We have always had the plan of not parking our customer vehicles in Saugus in the first place,” he said. “We’ve always had that plan that all parking would be in Lynn.”
About seven of the approximately 20 spots in the lot behind the Boston Street building are in Lynn, Avery said. The parking that is in Saugus will probably be used for a pizza restaurant that plans to move into the other part of the vacant building, he said.
The spaces reserved for the marijuana store and the pizza restaurant will each be marked. Avery said the company has also started looking for additional parking in Lynn in case it’s needed.
James Lamanna, Lynn’s assistant city solicitor, confirmed that “well over seven” parking spots have been identified as being in Lynn.
Lamanna said he understands Saugus officials are concerned about parking and traffic issues but “can’t see anything unique about cannabis traffic being generated as opposed to any other type of business.”
The lawsuit, however, points out various concerns with pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
‘The proposed use will generate substantial traffic congestion and safety hazards along Lincoln [Avenue] and other streets in Saugus,” the complaint states. On the town line between Lynn and Saugus, Boston Street becomes Lincoln Avenue.
Then there’s the 10 inches of the building that are in dispute.
For one thing, Avery and Sam Vitali — an attorney representing the marijuana company in zoning matters — aren’t even sure those 10 inches are in Saugus. But in an effort to move forward, they say they’re prepared to scale the building back anyway, and their landlord has already agreed to help make that happen.
When it comes to the deck, Avery said the use of the outdoor concrete deck isn’t in their lease, and they are not allowed to use it in any way.
The Lynn City Council and the marijuana company have until May 20 to respond to the complaint. Vitali said the company will probably respond with their intent to file a motion to dismiss the case, which he expects will be successful.
He said once the marijuana company makes the appropriate changes to the building, the court would have to weigh the question: “What standing, if any, does the town of Saugus have to complain?”
Asked whether the proposed changes to the building would satisfy the town’s concerns, Panetta referred the question to their attorney Arthur Kreiger, who did not return a request for comment Friday.
Avery, who was born and raised in Lynn, said he sees the marijuana industry as an opportunity to bring something good to his home city, and the lawsuit has been “very upsetting.”
“They’re not going to try to railroad me and stop me,” he said. “I’m not going to tolerate that.”
Massachusetts Green Retail does not have a host community agreement with Lynn, but Lamanna, the assistant city solicitor, says he envisions the company receiving the contract soon.
Once that happens, Avery plans to apply to the state Cannabis Control Commission and separately handle any pushback that comes from the lawsuit.
“We’re moving forward here. There’s no stopping here,” Avery said. “The whole point here is we’re not going to give up.”