When Northeast Alternatives opened its doors for the sale of recreational marijuana in January, CFO Rich Rosier said sales were strong.
"We went through one hundred people in an hour, so that’s very good per transaction time," Rosier said. "We’re planning on 45 cars, per 30 minutes and it’s looking like we can up the ante on that and have more people show up."
Since opening day, the influx of customers hasn’t stopped. The dispensary sees as many as a thousand people on busy days and generates millions of dollars in revenue. And the city gets a cut of those sales, too.
But it’s almost a year later and the mood in Fall River is quite different. Jeffrey Espinola and his family live directly behind Northeast Alternatives. He said his three kids love to play outside but they can't because of the smells coming from the dispensary. That, along with traffic and loud noises, has caused him to second guess his decision to purchase the house they’ve lived in for six years.
"If I could go back and sell the house I would," Espinola said. "I would sell it in a heartbeat. I don’t want to stay in this place."
Over two dozen residents complained to the city this fall about the effect the dispensary is having on their neighborhood.
City officials acknowledge the issues and some blame the mayor. Council member Stephen Long said Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia had unilateral approval over where the facility would be located... and the city council had no idea about any of it.
"The mayor decided that it was his prerogative to figure it all out," Long said. "He just kept us out of it. We never had one meeting. Never a public hearing, never any of that."
But Glenn Hathaway, the city’s building inspector, said Northeast Alternatives is properly zoned. He said one of the problems is that the city expected more pot shops to be in operation, alleviating the congestion and pressure on the neighborhood. That didn’t happen because they were put on hold following the arrest of Correia who’s accused of extorting marijuana vendors in a pay-to-play scheme.
"He just kept us out of it. We never had one meeting. Never a public hearing, never any of that."Stephen Long, Fall River City Council Member
"If that domino effect wasn’t there, we’d probably have another retail [pot facility] open," Hathaway said. "But until then, Northeast is capitalizing and the neighbors are feeling the pinch."
The complaints have received the attention of the Fall River traffic committee and city council. The council will meet in two weeks to decide what restrictions, if any, the city can enforce on Northeast Alternatives to address the immediate concerns.
This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative and was originally published by The Public's Radio.
This segment aired on December 23, 2019. The audio for this segment is not available.