The Jersey City Planning Board carried a cannabis business application due to the fact they would be very close to another dispensary, a concern the city council brought up at caucus on Monday.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Attorney Frank Vitolo explained that applicant Kushmart, proposed for 1521 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, plans to gut the interior and improve the facade. He also noted that the local Cannabis Control Board (CCB) approved them back in July.
Vitolo further stated that they met the criteria to be reviewed, including being separated by the necessary distance from other applicants.
“Is there any other cannabis business on the same block?” Commissioner Dr. Vidya Desai asked
“According to that [planning] report, there were no facilities permitted. We complied with the ordinance,” architect Chris Teeter replied.
Commissioner Steve Lipski said that he recalled that the Cannabis Place, seeking to open at 1542 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, and asked Supervising Planner Matthew Ward if that was the case.
“Yes, there is a concurrent application. We are bound by the time of application. They submitted it prior to us observing that buffer. Because of the time of application, they meet the condition of their zoning,” explained Ward.
“They’re behind the other applicant. We will respect buffers at the time permits are pulled. We have been asked to study and observe when a council resolution of local support is passed. We observe permits. That is the standard procedure.”
He also said the Cannabis Place didn’t pull permits in time, prompting Lipski to state that they already have approval from the planning board, the CCB, and the city council.
“If three governing bodies … approved the other application, that’s irrelevant?” Lipski asked.
“This applicant would not be bound by that time because of time of application,” Ward said.
Lipski continued by asking if it would be possible to have two cannabis retailers on the same block, to which Ward reiterated that Cannabis Place was not officially recognized yet, despite their approvals, since they still didn’t pulled permits.
Planning Board Counsel Jennifer Alampi concurred, stating that the time of application is what matters here.
Eventually, Torres sought to here more about the particulars of the business.
Cannabis consultant Ryan Fingerhut noted they want a lounge, acknowledging that the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) has not yet issued final consumption lounge regulations.
The CCB has said they will act once the NJCRC’s procedure is enacted.
“It’s currently going to be in used as an event space. The only entrance is a steel door. We separated out the application. We’re just moving forward with the retail location,” Fingerhut said.
“You’re going to have the consumption lounge, not the entertainment space? Or they’ll both exist at the same time?” Torres asked.
“We’re offering it to the community to use as an event space. We are not planning to run that for profit,” Fingerhut said, prompting Torres to ask if that would continue.
Fingerhut said it would indeed continue off-site.
During public comment, Cannabis Place CEO Osbert Orduna disputed the notion that they hadn’t pulled permits yet, asserting that their permits had been pulled and their location pinned.
Attorney Brian Aloia, also corporation counsel in Hoboken, was poised to speak next on behalf of Cannabis Place – who he is representing.
“Are you here an objector? You should have raised your hand. I think we should conclude Mr. Orduna’s comment,” Ward expressed.
“We would object to hearing testimony from Mr. Orduna if Mr. Aloia is going to testify,” Vitolo replied, to which Aloia said Orduna would be speaking on his own behalf.
Alampi interjected that it was atypical for counsel to speak on behalf of an objector.
“It does a huge disservice to the community. It would be fair for me to receive my three minutes of public comment,” Orduna argued.
Alampi also asked Aloia if Orduna would be a witness.
“We can provide more information. Maybe the board should motion to carry this,” Ward said.
“I would feel a lot more comfortable knowing where we stood,” Lipski said.
Conversely, Vitolo argued that delaying the application would not change the facts.
“You’re looking to carry what we established was a legally appropriate application.
It’s time of application, and our application is timely. These questions have arisen,” he exclaimed.
“By making this a race, it is not at all equitable. It’s completely arbitrary to say it’s this race to the finish line. We’re legally and appropriately here. When we filed our application, no permits were pulled. It is clear he does not want a competitor. It happens all the time. You don’t have anything.”
At that point Orduna again yelled out that he’d like to be heard, to which Vitolo said carrying the application at hand would likely pave the way for legal action.
“I believe this is legally in front of us. If my board wants more clarity… I’ll obviously let my board have more time. It puts you back two weeks,” Planning Board Chair Christopher Langston said.
“We’d like the public to be informed as we are,” Langston said. Torres also mentioned he’d like clarity.
“It’s a little disingenuous to say we’re not in a race. We didn’t allow Mr. Orduna or his attorney to speak. I believe in the free market. A Burger King and a McDonald’s can exist on the same block,” Lipski added.
Aloia noted that he patiently waited his turn, though Langston said counsel typically places their appearance on the record at the beginning of the meeting. Ward agreed that there are already protocols in place for that.
Langston said tat an opposing attorney had the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses before making a motion to carry.
The motion passed 6-0(1), with Commissioner Dr. Orlando Gonzalez abstaining.