The Hoboken City Council narrowly approved a settlement to give a cannabis dispensary a new hearing at the tail end of last night’s meeting.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Culture Hoboken LLC filed suit against the city and the local cannabis review board last August after their application was denied. To resolve the matter, the council was voting on a settlement to allow them another hearing, as HCV reported yesterday.
“The next hearing at court is expected to be on October 4th, in the morning, which is the date,” began Business Administrator Jason Freeman as he responded to 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino, who pressed on.
“When was the previous hearing? When did you get this settlement?” she asked.
“Yesterday? Two days ago?” Freeman answered.
Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia concurred that it was very recently, to which Giattino pointed out that the application had already been noticed for the upcoming CRB meeting.
“The reason it’s an emergency today is because the next hearing for the case is on the same date as the next council meeting, so the city council won’t have the ability to vote on it before that hearing if it’s not voted on tonight,” Freeman explained as to why it was added to the agenda yesterday.
Council President Emily Jabbour noted that since the CRB is an advisory board, they don’t have the ability to sign off on a settlement agreement, therefore the council must consider it.
“There was just some misunderstanding about where that needed to go, and so it was initially thought to be referred just to the CRB, but then when we made this realization, it was added to the agenda so that we, the council, could vote on it,” she stated.
Freeman then noted that Culture’s original application to the CRB was on April 5th, 2022, and Aloia noted that the board would reconsider them as if that was the date of their submission – prior to the city’s “common sense” cannabis regulations being adopted.
2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who called into the meeting since she has COVID-19, expressed a couple of concerns with the agreement.
“First of all, we haven’t even been briefed on why we’re agreeing to this. And second, it seems to be allowing back to be first in line when the cannabis review board actually said no to them,” she argued.
“And there may be other cannabis dispensaries. If we’re potentially gonna go down to five, and we have the ability to bring in a six, of maybe a bunch of other dispensaries that were already in line that we’re bumping just to put these guys back in first in line and it doesn’t feel like we should be rushing that and not delivering that information to the public.”
Fisher also noted that all parties agreed to the settlement on August 6th and there was then a case management agreement on September 6th, so it didn’t seem plausible that the city just received the agreement and therefore it should’ve been on the agenda from the onset.
1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, who represents the area where the dispensary sought to open (321 Washington St.), sought clarity on if the application would be considered under the “common sense” rules or the old rules.
Aloia said the terms of the settlement would have the application heard under the old rules.
“I don’t believe the older rules reflect the will of my neighborhood from what I’ve heard and I would urge my council colleagues to respect the 1st Ward, our quality of life issues,” DeFusco stated.
“There is an election coming up, there will be a new 1st Ward councilperson. I would urge the council to recognize that voice, whoever that might be, to not move forward with this settlement.”
Freeman added that while Culture applied with the 321 Washington St. address previously, they are expected to apply with a different one this time around.
Fisher and Giattino objected to allowing them to be heard at a new address with the old rules, but the measure still passed 5-4.
DeFusco, Fisher, Giattino, and 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos voted no.