Four Hoboken City Council members are calling on Story Dispensary LLC to pull their cannabis dispensary application from the planning board since it would be “in the center of the most densely populated residential area” of the city.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
While the council approved “common sense” cannabis reforms at last week’s meeting, the Story application for 51-53 14th St. – the former Hudson Tavern – will likely not be affected by the new regulations since they submitted their application to the planning board before they took effect.
The new laws cap the total number of dispensaries at six and more clearly delineate residential areas where recreational cannabis dispensaries cannot be located, such as within 600 feet of a school.
“My neighbors moved to this residential area because it was family friendly, quiet, and close to the Hudson River waterfront walkway. They did not move to a tourist destination and party zone which is feared what will happen if the Hudson Tavern dispensary moves forward,” 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, whose ward is where the proposed dispensary is located, said in a statement.
“We are asking that the dispensary operator and property owner rescind their application, respect the interests of the surrounding neighborhood and avoid what are expected to be continuous problems in the future.”
One of the other changes approved last week was removing cannabis as conditional use in the recently created C-3 Neighborhood Commercial Districts, which were formerly residential zones – which includes the 14th Street neighborhood near the former bar.
“We rebranded certain densely populated, residential areas in 2019 as C-3 Neighborhood Commercial to make it easier for and attract businesses that were not previously permitted like the top-rated restaurant and fish market Tutta Pesce. They ended up leaving Hoboken because the zoning was too costly and difficult,” added 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos.
“Cannabis dispensaries were not the kind of business we intended in C-3 and our laws should never have been expanded to include these residential areas. If a dispensary were proposed for a C-3 zone in my ward, my neighbors and I would equally oppose it.”
The Hoboken City Council unanimously approved zoning for legal cannabis last year following a ballot question about legalizing marijuana passing overwhelmingly in November 2020.
Since the Story application has drawn a negative reaction from residents, the council has begun taking action to scale back permitted areas, such as Marine View Plaza, and has also banned all forms of smoking in parks.
“This is about finding the right balance in Hoboken between quality of life, social justice, and reducing taxes,” noted 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, who represents the ward where Marine View is located.
“Allowing cannabis dispensaries to be located at the base of residential towers makes little sense and is contrary to our state law which provides for dispensaries in commercial and industrial areas.”
While Hoboken voters approved the aforementioned ballot question by an over 70 percent plurality, these council members say many of those same residents have indicated that they don’t want recreational cannabis sold near schools, parks, and residential areas.
“We haven’t yet figured out what this means for today’s children and communities. And in a town with an increasing number of families and children, where we all share the same backyard, a more measured approach is what is needed,” explained 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino.
Their opposition to the project is nothing new, as they all came out against it when the council was asked to do so at their March 23rd meeting by resident Leslie Bradley, who lives at 51-53 14th St.
The planning board does not convene again until May 5th and therefore does not have an agenda prepared yet.
Fisher has been outspoken against the project since before the cannabis review board hearing on February 24th, reigniting her feud with Mayor Ravi Bhalla – who also pushed for some new cannabis regulations.
Representatives for Story could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.