Neighbor questions traffic impact of proposed pot shop

An image of the marijuana shop proposed for 60 Dunham Road in Beverly.

BEVERLY — The company hoping to open a marijuana shop on Dunham Road told neighbors Thursday night that the business would not have much of an impact on traffic in the area.

But in a neighborhood that is surrounded by an increasing amount of development, at least one resident wasn't so sure.

"I'm unhappy with what our neighborhood is turning into with all of the development," Dunham Road resident Barbara Salerno said during an online community outreach meeting hosted by Aspen Blue, the company that is proposing the marijuana shop. "We're all very heightened in our neighborhood over this."

Aspen Blue is seeking to open a retail marijuana store at 60 Dunham Road, at the site of the former Naugler Engineering building. The plan would require a signed host community agreement with the city, approval by the state's Cannabis Control Commission, and approval by the city's Zoning Board of Appeals, none of which has happened yet.

The city has signed agreements for two other marijuana shops, at 13 Enon St. and 350 Rantoul St. Neither one has opened yet but could open sometime this year. 

In addition to Aspen Blue's application for a host community agreement, the city is reviewing applications from other companies for marijuana shops at 104 Cabot St., 73 Cabot St., and 95 Sam Fonzo Drive. The city can have a maximum of four marijuana businesses.  

Aspen Blue is a Rhode Island-based company that is also looking to open marijuana facilities in Attleboro, Wellfleet, Mashpee and Wareham. Its Beverly store would go by the name Terps.

Company officials said at the meeting that the location would have 50 parking spaces, with the option to lease space for 40 more if necessary. The shop would be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and also have online ordering. A traffic engineer hired by the company said the extra traffic generated by the shop "is not anticipated to have a significant impact."

But Salerno wondered how the company could predict traffic volume in light of all of the development in the area. Cummings Properties has built several new buildings at the Dunham Ridge property down the street, and the North Shore Crossing Plaza with a Whole Foods Market opened in 2019 nearby on Brimbal Avenue. North Shore Music Theatre is also located on Dunham Road.

Ward 5 City Councilor Kathleen Feldman said officials have scrapped a plan to put a traffic signal at the intersection of Brimbal Avenue and Dunham Road, but other infrastructure plans are "in the works."

"We will have a broader neighborhood discussion about managing the traffic at that intersection and the exchange (with Route 128)," Feldman said.

Matthew Wilkes, vice president of business operations for Aspen Blue, said that the company would start off by hiring a police detail for the Brimbal/Dunham intersection.

"That will really help traffic flow there," he said.

Salerno said she didn't love the idea of having a police officer at the end of her street at all times.

"I feel like it makes our neighborhood not feel like a neighborhood," she said.

Emily Hutchings, the city's assistant planning director, said the Zoning Board would review traffic in consultation with the police department as part of the approval process.

Wilkes said Aspen Blue plans to establish a charitable foundation that would donate $50,000 per year to not-for-profits in the city. Standard agreements also call for host cities to receive 3% of annual gross revenues from marijuana businesses.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@salemnews.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

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