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Council delays vote to ban recreational marijuana

Also at meeting: local resident suggests idea for combating Rt. 495 traffic

Secaucus resident Don Evanson suggests the council look into striking a deal with MetLife Stadium for residents to use their parking lot on off days, after the Route 495 shutdowns.

The mayor and Town Council on Aug. 29 pulled, from the agenda, a zoning ordinance banning recreational marijuana sales, due to a delay by county officials who are reviewing it, according to Town Administrator Gary Jeffas.
The Planning Board recently approved the ordinance, and the council had voted to introduce it at their July 24 meeting. But it has not yet gone to a final vote. The Hudson County Planning Board had not yet reviewed the measure by the August council meeting. Jeffas said that the county does not have to approve the ordinance for the town to take a final vote, but must at least review it beforehand.
The ordinance would amend the town’s zoning code to prohibit selling, growing, and distributing recreational marijuana. It would not impact medical marijuana, legal in the state since 2010, nor would it impede on recreational marijuana use, should the New Jersey state legislature legalize it. Secaucus currently has one medical marijuana dispensary.
At the July 24 meeting, Mayor Michael Gonnelli said Gov. Phil Murphy’s push for the state to legalize recreational weed was a factor for the ordinance. Secaucus’ many conservative residents would likely be adverse to recreational marijuana, and Jeffas said the town wanted to address their concerns as well.
The Harmony Dispensary in Secaucus is Hudson County’s very first and only medical marijuana dispensary.
The ordinance should be up for a final hearing at the next council meeting on Sep. 11, Jeffas said.

New fire, emergency safety regulations

New safety improvements are coming to local buildings. The council adopted an ordinance that requires new commercial buildings and residential structures with three or more units to install Knox Boxes, wall-mounted safes that hold building keys that would allow fire and other emergency services rapid entry.
Existing commercial buildings with automatic fire-detection and/or fire-suppression systems will need Knox Boxes as well.
Property or building owners would be responsible for all costs associated with the acquisition, installation, and maintenance of the devices at their locations. Those who don’t comply with the ordinance, or violate it after receiving notice from the Secaucus fire official, will be subject to a $500 fine.

“You’d be able to take a significant amount of cars off the road.” – Don Evanson


Firefighters in the wings

During the committee reports section, Clancy highlighted three young men who graduated from the Bergen County Fire Academy in August.
The three are part of the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department’s junior fire division, which has them assisting the department with certain tasks, although they aren’t allowed to fight fires.
Secaucus youths John Maurin, 16; Donald Cieciuch, 16; and Victor Paone, 17, will be eligible to join the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department once they turn 18, thanks to certification they earned as academy grads.
Paone will be turning 18 in October.
“I want to thank these three young men for taking the step that they went through,” Clancy said.

Resident asks council to use MetLife Stadium parking for 495 headaches

During the public comments section of a meeting of the Town Council, resident Don Evanson asked the council to consider striking a deal to use MetLife Stadium’s parking lot for Secaucus residents on non-event days to deal with traffic delays from the recent lane and ramp closures on Route 495. The stadium is located in nearby East Rutherford.
“If there could be a way to do that, then you could park your car there, you could take the train, jump on board, and get into Manhattan, or you could jump on board with a bus,” Evanson said. “You’d be able to take a significant amount of cars off the road.”
However, the town is currently using a resident-only parking lot near the Secaucus Junction NJ Transit station, shuttling people between the lot and station during rush hours. “Right now, we have six cars there,” Gonnelli said. “I think that’s going to increase dramatically the second week of September. We’re going to keep doing that.”
Second Ward Councilman James Clancy also added that the town would need permission from the Giants and Jets teams before such a deal could be made.
“We could certainly reach out to them,” Gonnelli told Evanson.
Traffic is expected to back up heavily in Secaucus from now through summer 2021, because a 495 westbound ramp entrance in North Bergen and one lane in both directions are closed for construction work on the freeway’s bridge. Paterson Plank Road, a detour route for the closed ramp, is a major street in town.

Hannington Dia can be reached at hd@hudsonreporter.com

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