Hearings continue over Heights marijuana-store plans

Traffic, parking, sign discussed at 2nd session

The town Redevelopment Board on Monday, Jan. 6, heard new details about customer and traffic flow from Apothca, the marijuana retailer that proposes to establish a dispensary in the Heights at 1386 Mass. Ave., where Swifty Printing has been for years. A third hearing before the board is expected to continue Jan. 27. 

Redevelopment Board logo, Jan. 23, 2013

“Apothca will provide both medical and recreational marijuana,” said its lawyer, Phil Silverman.

State regulations require a physical and virtual separation between medical and recreational marijuana, so there will be separate customer lines and a separate inventory-tracking system, with medical patients getting priority.

“In most cases it’s the same product, so it can be switched from the different systems even at the point of sale, to ensure Apothca has sufficient product for medical patients,” explained Silverman.

Interior design, traffic flow

Silverman made these points:

  • A wall will separate the entryway from the actual dispensary.
  • An exit-only door on the building’s right-side will ensure traffic flows smoothly from the front entry to the exit.
  • An interior queueing system (no exterior queueing) will stipulate that if more than five people are in line, an Apothca employee will hand out a list of offerings, to speed up orders when customers are served. “However, we don’t foresee that as necessary, with our estimated turnaround time of seven minutes, but we’ll have it just in case we have a lot of demand.”
  • The facility will have a separate meeting room, for private consultations.
  • A single-occupancy, gender-neutral bathroom will be provided.

The break room will be fully screened, said Apothca CEO Joseph Lekach.

Board member Kin Lau requested an updated floor plan with vestibules. 


Apothca parking attendants will explain to customers where the available sparking spaces are, so people don’t linger too long in the parking lot. “This will be especially needed in the first month, when people come in out of curiosity, and before all procedures are in place,” said Silverman.

“If we get too many customers and have to turn people away, Apothca’s parking lot attendant will direct customers to parking lots in Arlington Center and/or Lexington Center, where shuttle buses will be available to transport them. This issue will be dealt with in a memorandum of understanding that we’ll put out,” said Silverman.

Double parking will not be allowed on Mass. Ave. Uber and Lyft drop-offs will be routed through the parking area, and an area will be designated for drop-offs, he added.

“How will you make sure your customers won’t use the parking spots of other businesses?” asked Board Chair Andrew Bunnell.

“We’ll inform customers not to do it,” replied Lekach.

Planning and Community Development Director Jenny Raitt suggested using signs, such as “Don’t park on Paul Revere Road,” and Lekach agreed.

Resident Mara Larkin requested a current traffic count on Paul Revere Road, and again after the store opens, and Raitt agreed to look into it. 

Bike racks

Two bike racks, each accommodating four bikes, have been added to the plan, Silverman said.

“In addition, the break room has space for two bikes,” added Lekach.

Board member David Watson said, “I appreciate the inclusion of bike parking, and recommend you look at the town’s guidelines about biking needs. If at all possible, also try to provide more exterior parking behind the two racks you’re proposing, if room, to allow for more bicycles.” 

Traffic control

“We added speed bumps, one going in and one going out, and light flash alerts to let drivers know a car is coming,” Silverman said.

Board member Eugene Benson said: “It’ll be good to monitor how people are getting out of the parking lot, to get a sense of whether it’s problematic. At a future time, if it turns out it is difficult, we may need a discussion to find a solution to this problem.”

A traffic-impact statement prepared by Hayes Engineering Inc. states, “approximately 20,000 vehicles per day pass the project site. The projected daily increase in vehicle trips of 142 on an average day represents less than 1% of the 17,613 vehicles reported at this location. As such no significant changes to the prevailing traffic conditions are anticipated as a result of this project.”

However, Benson expressed concern that in predicting traffic flow, these are the average numbers, not the Brookline customer numbers, the highest in state. “Because this is the first dispensary in the area, we may get more customers than expected,” he said.

“That’s why we’ll have a memorandum of understanding,” replied Silverman.

“I would want to see that, along with the impact of the Brookline numbers, and the impact on Paul Revere Road and parking before we take a vote,” said Benson.

“I also think it’ll be difficult for cars to exit the parking lot, because it’s a straight out and then a sharp turn, and there are parking spaces right up against the driveway. Have you talked to the town about getting that parking space removed? It’ll be much easier to exit the lot without that parking spot. Mass. Ave. has a lot of traffic, which will have to be dealt with. At this location, we need to be specific about the worst-case scenario, not just the average-case scenario,” said Benson.

Silverman agreed to do this.

Employee transportation information will be provided in an annual report, added Lekach.

Store sign

A provision requires that the store sign not exceed 25 percent of the window, and Apothca will comply with that, said Silverman.

However, the proposed building sign will be vinyl, and several board members expressed concern.

“A vinyl sign is out of character with Arlington Heights,” said board member Lau.

Board member Rachel Zsembery said: “I don’t think vinyl is appropriate, and a sign type we want to encourage in Arlington. I prefer something more akin to what you proposed previously, a back-lit sign. There are plenty of graphic options that are not a single color that could enhance the signage. A lot of other dispensaries have been very creative with their signage.”

Lekach agreed to look into different sign options. 

Exterior/building features

“As the business owner, I want the store to look as nice as possible, and the windows to let in as much natural light as possible,” said Lekach.

“We also want the landscape improved. A fence will be put into the south and east property lines, and we’ll plant whatever trees the tree warden recommends,” said Silverman.

“However, there’s no space in front for any plantings,” said Lekach.

Extra lighting will be provided for the external drive walls, on the rear of the building, and in the rear of the parking lot, all of which are dark-sky compliant, said Silverman.

The trench drains will use the latest technology, participle separators with catch-basin inlets, which treats water the same way as discussed before, and speed bumps will keep water from flowing onto either side.

“I’m OK with the speed bumps, and now ask for a curb along the backside with the garden next to the rear parking lot. Can you put breaks into that curb, so water can get into that garden?” asked Lau.

Silverman will talk with their civil engineer, and do it if possible.

Lekach agreed to add a street number on the building and will work with an extermination company to prevent rats. 

Working with police

“We sat down with Arlington’s police department so they know what’s going on, just like we did with our Lynn store, and will coordinate with them on busy days, such as April 20,” said Lekach. Cannabis celebrations have taken place April 20 since 1971

“We’re setting up a time for them to visit our Lynn operation, to see how things will work here, such as our turnover rates. We currently hover around the four-minute mark, but we say seven minutes to give ourselves leeway,” added Lekach.

“We’ll also establish a procedure, so that police officers can see what’s going on and how things are running. We’ll issue a memorandum of understanding in case we end up with an enormous, unexpected demand, and we can go to the police chief to seek to lessen the demand,” said Silverman.

We can also put a statement on our website to discourage people from coming at certain times,” added Silverman.

Apothca has operated a medical-marijuana dispensary at 11 Water St. since October 2018 and plans to move it to the Heights, if its plan is approved.

Nov. 18, 2019: Redevelopment meeting minutes

June 18, 2019: Community hears aims for Heights marijuana store 

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Friday, Jan. 10, 2020.

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