LYNN — Recreational pot is coming to downtown Lynn.
The City Council approved a proposal from Natural Selections to open a pot shop at 193 Oxford St., which would be next door to The Blue Ox, an upscale restaurant.
Natural Selections is the second company to receive approval from the City Council to operate a pot shop in Lynn. Apothca opened a medical marijuana facility on the Lynnway in November and plans to open its recreational component at the shop in March.
“We’re very excited about this relationship with the city and we’re ready to start building,” said Aidan O’Donovan, owner of Natural Selections, following the vote on Tuesday night. “We’re excited to be here.”
Ward 4 Councilor Richard Colucci was the lone vote against the proposal. He said he voted “no” because he’s a member of East Coast International Church and agreed with its pastor, who spoke against the future shop.
Pastor Kurt Lange, of East Coast International Church, located on the adjacent Munroe Street, said downtown Lynn is not the right place for recreational pot in the city, but spoke about his moral concerns with providing access to pot as well.
“(I’m) reminded of the great consequence we invite into our city by allowing these recreational marijuana stores to come in and rest our financial hopes and dreams on the sale of drugs to our citizens seems fundamentally flawed to me,” Lange said.
Following the approval of its special permit, the next step is for Natural Selections to negotiate a host agreement with the city, which would require them to provide the city with 6 percent of annual gross revenues when factoring in the 3 percent local option tax Lynn officials passed in 2017.
According to a presentation from the company, as part of negotiations, Natural Selections plans to offer $100,000 to the city in advance upon opening as part of its host agreement. The company also needs approval from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission.
Before appearing before the council, Natural Selections went through the city’s multi-step vetting process, which included approval from the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC/Lynn) and the Recreational Cannabis Site Plan Review Committee of the City Council.
James Cowdell, EDIC/Lynn executive director, spoke in favor of the facility, saying the downtown pot shop will bring in millions of dollars of desperately-needed revenue. Natural Selections will be occupying a building that’s been vacant for about 15 years and investing $1 million in renovations.
Matt O’Neil, owner of the Blue Ox, said he was in favor of the new shop operating next door to his restaurant. O’Neil also owns the building Natural Selections will occupy, which he said needs a lot of revitalization.
“I think it will add value to the downtown,” O’Neil said. “I think it will be a nice addition to the community.”
But Zachary Andrews, a Swampscott resident who is planning to construct a five-story building directly behind the future facility, said the future shop will bring more gridlock to the area and the parking situation would be horrendous.
Despite some opposition, city councilors say their hands are tied.
“It is legal in the city of Lynn,” said Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis. “There is nothing we can do right now. It’s the law right now. We have to open them. I think it’s going to be a great thing for the downtown, the revenue it’s going to bring into the city.”
O’Donovan said their goal is to break ground in March, which would kick off a 20 to 22-week construction process before the shop would open. To ease parking concerns, he said the company is negotiating to acquire a parking lot on Andrew Street.
In other news, the Recreational Cannabis Site Plan Review Committee approved what’s been a controversial proposal from Massachusetts Green Retail Inc., a company seeking to operate a recreational marijuana establishment at 829 Boston St., the former O’Brien’s Pub.
With the approval, Massachusetts Green Retail, owned by Jordan Avery, would next seek its special permit from the City Council. If approved to operate, the future pot shop would share space with the other tenant, Bianchi’s, a beloved pizza parlor and longtime staple on Revere Beach.
“Some people think it’s a genius combination,” said Ward 2 Councilor Rick Starbard, chairman of the committee, referring to pot and pizza being in the same building.
The wrinkle in the applicant’s proposed location is part of the parking lot is in Saugus.
Town Meeting members in Saugus voted unanimously last May to bar recreational marijuana establishments from operating anywhere in town, according to Debra Panetta, chairwoman of the Saugus Board of Selectmen.
James Lamanna, the attorney for the city of Lynn, said there could be a legal challenge from the town of Saugus, but believes Massachusetts Green Retail would ultimately prevail legally as the building is fully in Lynn.
“I respectfully asked to say a few words during this meeting, as it’s such a significant impact on my town and I was refused,” Panetta said on Tuesday night following the vote. “If a Lynn councilor came to one of my meetings, regardless of what protocol was, I would have afforded them that opportunity if it had a major impact on the Lynn residents.
“I did consult with town counsel since Saugus did unanimously vote to (bar recreational marijuana). Recreational marijuana is not allowed within any district in Saugus. Thus, they cannot be using that parking for recreational marijuana. At this point, our town counsel has told us they can’t do this.”
Joseph Lekach, owner of Apothca where Avery works as director of security, would be the cultivator if the Boston Street facility is approved.
“It’s sad to see another town that has no control over what the city does and it’s unfortunate to see them try to exert any control over what the city of Lynn is doing,” said Lekach.