Tensions flared at a recent community meeting on Brookline’s New England Treatment Access, the meeting becoming heated as residents clamored to comment, occasionally raising their voices and speaking over one another.
The feedback varied. Some who spoke called for more police presence in the neighborhood; others called for more NETA security. Some said the marijuana retailer should reduce its hours; others said it should go to appointment-only.
The Sept. 24 gathering was an annual meeting intended to give abutters and community members a chance to comment on NETA’s operations and policies. More than 80 were in attendance.
Residents shared a list of common complaints, including litter, public marijuana consumption, traffic impact and public urination.
Brookline resident Liz Linder, whose photography studio is located on White Place behind NETA, said she regularly sees people consuming marijuana outside her building. Linder said she is constantly picking up litter, including bottles possibly containing urine.
Other residents echoed her complaints, telling stories of men urinating on their property or rideshare cars blocking their driveways.
Sam Levine, another White Place resident, said he was initially concerned about the impact NETA would have on his street. However, Levine said he has never seen public urination or litter problems in his neighborhood.
Still, he called the meeting eye opening and said any problems between NETA and the surrounding neighborhood likely have more to do with lack of sufficient law enforcement presence.
Even six months after it began selling adult-use marijuana, NETA still has police details on site daily, said NETA President Amanda Rositano. That’s in addition to the company’s own security, she said.
And after the initial opening buzz, things at NETA have begun to settle, Rositano said. “Our lines are typically relatively short at this point in time,” she said. As many in the crowd murmured in disagreement, she added, “Of course, that’s a subjective statement.”
Rositano also spoke of the policies NETA has implemented to address community concerns. However, with resident suggestions sometimes conflicting, finding solutions is a balancing act, she admitted.
While neighboring streets are not reserved for resident-only parking, NETA has put up signs encouraging customers to be courteous and leave spaces for residents, Rositano said. The company also has a strict policy regarding employees parking on side streets, she said.
In regards to litter, she acknowledged that a higher volume of visitors in Brookline Village likely means a higher volume of trash. However, NETA has formed a company volunteer team that goes out into the neighborhood to pick up trash, Rositano said.
The retailer also provides restrooms and will make that clear to customers, she said.
Rositano emphasized NETA’s policy of transparency and open communication, adding that the company tries to be a good neighbor.
“We don’t claim to be perfect,” she said. “We think that we do run a pretty tight ship, but we acknowledge that there is room for improvement, and we want to make sure that you guys know that we’re here to hear your suggestions and work through them with you.”
“You can reduce the burden of aggravation by cutting back your hours,” one Walnut Street resident suggested, earning a roar of applause. NETA’s Host Community Agreement with the town authorizes hours of operation from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.
Addressing grievances aired at the meeting, Select Board Chair Bernard Greene said there needs to be discussion before the town considers any changes to its relationship with NETA.
Several residents in the crowd broke out in laughter. “We had the discussion tonight,” one woman told Greene.
“Is that all the discussion you want?” he asked, adding that he would want to talk to police and town officials to determine the best course of action.
Greene also said he wasn’t sure he agreed with calls for reduced hours of operations or appointment-only sales. An audience member responded that it doesn’t matter what Greene thinks. But as a Select Board member, Greene said, his opinion does matter.
“It matters what your constituency base thinks too,” another audience member said.
“Yes, I’m listening,” Greene said.
“But you’re disagreeing,” she replied.
“The fact that I either disagree or haven’t been persuaded of your position does not mean that I’m not listening. Please don’t say that, because it’s not true,” Greene said. “We listen, even though we may not agree or may not be persuaded. And we take actions that we can take and we feel are appropriate.”
NETA is slated to release a report that will address community feedback, Rositano said.