By Joe Ruvido
In their regular meeting last week the Somerville Board of Aldermen discussed medical marijuana taxes and city elections.
The Somerville licensing commission has already approved two licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries in Davis Square and is poised to issue a third for a dispensary in Union Square.
Revenues from sales of marijuana, medical or recreational, were big selling points in getting those referendums passed in states like Colorado and Massachusetts. Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana in 2012 and recreational marijuana in 2016. The public health and public safety committee will discuss the proposed 4% levy on dispensary sales at their upcoming meeting on April 5.
Also discussed was overturning an existing Somerville law stating that members of city boards and commissions, such as the Licensing board, must register for election as members of a political party. The law forces residents registered as independents from registering for an election unless they registered as a member of one of the two major parties. That was also referred to committee for further discussion.
On March 8, the Somerville Redevelopment Authority (SRA) held a public hearing regarding the Master Land Disposition Agreement proposed for development in Somerville. The agreement has been a topic of concern for residents and community groups who want concessions from the city and any chosen developers regarding mixed-use of space and affordable housing.
Ward 7 Alderman Katjana Ballantyne was clear in why she attended the public hearing. “I’m concerned about transparency,” said Ballantyne, who indicated that she has received numerous phone calls and emails regarding development and a Community Benefits Agreement that is yet to be negotiated.
The Redevelopment Authority is a 5-member board that by law implements the city’s urban renewal plans and oversees the classification of property in the city. They oversaw the choosing of a contractor for and the implementation of the Assembly Square revitalization project and have been working with the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development on plans for Union Square.
Approximately 50 members of the public were present at the meeting, but others voiced their concerns to their aldermen via letters and emails. Matt Miller of Somerville spoke in favor of the Community Benefits Agreement. “We’re willing to meet everyone half-way. We understand development needs to happen. Let’s just ensure that we have a good faith commitment on behalf of the developer and then full speed ahead.”
Five members of the Board of Aldermen were present at the public hearing to speak in favor of the CBA. The aldermen had held a meeting of their own regarding Union Square redevelopment on March 8. Alderman Matt McLaughlin spoke vociferously in favor of a pre-agreement with the developer before the start of any construction in Union Square. “This will not be like the Green Line,” said McLaughlin, referring to the $50M the city is bonding for the Green Line Extension project. “I’m going to take my time with this and do my due diligence with the Board.”
“I’m from Somerville. We want this done correctly,” said SRA member Nancy Busnach. The SRA will be compiling public comments from the hearing, and will continue accepting comments through April 14. They postponed any vote on the MLDA until late April.