FALL RIVER – A group of Commonwealth Avenue and Heritage Court homeowners have banded together to convince city officials that the recent opening of Northeast Alternatives marijuana dispensary has had a negative impact on their neighborhood.
There are 21 houses along Commonwealth Avenue and Heritage Court, a small neighborhood that makes up a single dead-end roadway wrapping around Northeast Alternatives’ facility. Roughly 30 neighborhood residents have signed a petition urging city officials to force the dispensary to make changes to lessen the traffic congestion they’ve seen since it opened for adult-use sales in January.
The petition outlines a set of requests with which the homeowners hope to see Northeast Alternatives comply. Rather than have customers park at the dispensary, they’ve asked the company to offer off-site parking and a shuttle bus to ferry customers back and forth from their cars. New signs, including ones prohibiting commercial vehicle travel or non-residential parking on Commonwealth Avenue and Heritage Court, have also been requested.
The petition also asks that the city to keep a police presence at the dispensary while it is open to help reduce traffic accidents and for a traffic study to be implemented at the intersection of William S. Canning Boulevard, Commonwealth Avenue and Napoleon Street.
About 20 of the petition's backers attended a Traffic Commission meeting Wednesday to address these concerns to city officials and representatives of Northeast Alternatives.
Complaints touched on the difficulty residents have had in exiting their neighborhood onto William S. Canning Boulevard with the added customer traffic. Several homeowners brought up the issue of customers parking in their neighborhood or smoking cannabis in their cars.
Commonwealth Avenue resident Denis Duquette said the smell of cannabis coming from the dispensary and the people smoking around it has become so bad that it’s now a constant odor around his house.
“My own house smells like marijuana if I leave my windows open. It’s in my furniture,” he said.
Fall River Police Sgt. Kevin Dolan, who chairs the city’s Traffic Commission, said he will pay close attention to the situation.
“This whole thing is new. Since I’ve been on the board, we’ve never had a nuisance like this,” he said. “Usually, when you invite someone to a traffic board meeting, they show up.”
Despite the crowd seen at Wednesday’s meeting, no representatives of Northeast Alternatives were present. City Parking Clerk Laura Ferreira said the dispensary’s administrators had repeatedly been invited and urged to attend a Traffic Commission meeting.
“I mailed them a letter. I left them a message this morning, I left them a message this afternoon, I left them a message last week,” she said.
Not long after a particularly busy Fourth of July weekend, a spokesman for Northeast Alternatives described recent customer traffic as having been “mayhem” and “insane” in an interview with The Herald News.
The dispensary's chief operating officer, Kyle Bishop, said the company subsequently requested additional police traffic details.
“We’re having guys walking around the neighborhood to make sure no one is loitering or up to any mischief,” Bishop said in July. “We’re very certain we can keep the neighborhood happy.”
Before the meeting concluded, Dolan said he and fellow officer Jose Barbosa, who also serves on the Traffic Commission, planned to work Saturday and would monitor issues at the dispensary.
“We’re going to pay a visit to your neighborhood Saturday afternoon,” he said. “You’re our focus for Saturday afternoon. We won’t just drop by for five minutes and leave."