Bass Ave. pot shop plans to be aired Thursday

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff photo. A retail marijuana dispensary is proposed for the building at 88 Bass Ave., currently home to Serendipity's Playhouse.

The sign on the front of John Linquata's new business makes it clear that the building at 88 Bass Ave. houses Serendipity's Playhouse, a children's indoor playground named for a pink dinosaur popular in kids' books and on TV.

But the shop, open since March, could take on a different aura and audience if an application filed by the property's owners KTBGM LLC gains traction with the Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday night. The hearing will mark the first time the ZBA has fielded a request under the city's new pot zoning bylaws. 

The hearing is scheduled to address KTBGM's variance requests for setback space and, perhaps most importantly, overall lot space. The ownership corporation is based in Gloucester and managed by Anthony and Mary Testaverde and Gina Fennessy, documents show. 

Linquata has a three-year lease for Serendipity, which offers soft playground equipment and other attractions for kids, with KTBGM. His lease has two years to run.

Up and running since March, Linquata says he wants to stay. 

"I have a good relationship (with the property owners), but I would never fault anyone for making the most of what they can do," he said. "But I also would like to keep this going for the long haul.

"They've said they would honor and renew our lease," Linquata said of the ownership team. "But at the same time, I understand business is business."

The owners' application seeking variances would open the door to leasing the building as a retail marijuana shop. 

While the store has 2,856 square feet of working space — more than the city's required 2,000 for a pot shop— it falls short on the overall lot size, having 14,810 square feet. The city's 20,000-square-foot lot requirement was seen as a key component of its retail marijuana ordinance — along with a limit of three retail shops and a 500-foot buffer zone between any shop and a K-12 school — when it was passed last year.

James Destino, the city's chief of administration, said talks with the city over the site have involved a company called Hooligan's Enterprises LLC, which is registered to a Mark Guinane of Manchester and would run the shop if it gains approval.  Guinane filed his company's application with the city last year.

Destino said he would not speculate as to how the ZBA will handle the requests.

"We spent a lot of time and effort in our community working on this (ordinance)," he said, "and it is brand new. We have 48 sites where these shops can be located. We will see." 

Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.

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