At its last meeting of the year, the City Council adopted zoning changes to permit medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, amended the Western Edge Redevelopment Plan, and listened as residents discussed parking problems.
Medical marijuana permitted
Three medical marijuana dispensaries will be permitted in Hoboken starting in the new year.
These three dispensaries could be located in the city’s zoned industrial areas along the northern and southern borders of town as well as in the Central Business District.
The council, however, did not pass an additional ordinance that would have banned all other forms of marijuana establishments in town.
Instead, the majority of the council voted the measure down in a 5-4 vote because the state legislature has not yet legalized recreational or adult-use marijuana, and that gives the city more time to work on a local ordinance.
Western Edge plan amendments
The council approved amendments to the Western Edge Redevelopment Plan in a 7-2 vote. Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher and Councilman Jim Doyle voted against the ordinance.
The redevelopment area is located at the western edge of Hoboken, at the foot of the Palisades. The study area boundaries are formed by the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to the west; Ninth Street to the south; Monroe Street, Madison Street and Jefferson Street to the east; and Fourteenth Street and the Fourteenth Street viaduct to the north.
The Western Edge Redevelopment Plan was originally adopted on Aug. 5, 2015, and on July 6, 2016, Just Block 112 LLC was designated a conditional redeveloper.
According to council documents, the April 5, 2017 proposal from the developers proposed a new hotel, retail space, 207 residential units including affordable housing, and parking.
One of the primary amendments approved by the council allows an increase in the height of the hotel to a maximum of 16 stories, with one story of parking, for a total of 166 feet, not including an allowable 22 feet for bulkheads and rooftop amenities.
“I urge the council to consider the time that the area has been blighted for over 15 years,” said Mark Villimar, one of the developer’s principals.
He said the property was purchased in 2012, and while the council shouldn’t necessarily consider the time he and his partners have waited for the project, they should consider the implications further delays would have.
“The reality is you don’t have to be concerned about me or partners waiting to get a more perfect plan adopted but consider the other people involved by delaying an agreement to get the area developed,” said Villimar. “It would be delaying the people who work in construction from getting paid and doing work, and delaying benefits to the rest of the citizens of Hoboken from ratables that will be generated from what are now derelict buildings adjacent to the largest park in Hoboken. I imagine that’s not the image you want to convey to people using that park.” He added that the western edge is an underused part of the city.
“Ultimately we want to get something going,” Villimar said. “We’ve waited a really long time.”
Doyle said he was concerned that permitting amendments would take away some of the city’s leverage during negotiations with the redeveloper by giving them what they want without first receiving plans for a community giveback of some sort.
He said in the past the council would typically be presented with a redevelopment agreement after negotiations, along with an ordinance to amend the plan, instead of first being presented with amendments to the plan.
“Here they came in, and they had a wish list for Christmas of things they wanted. Why would we not wait?” said Doyle. “We don’t have any promises yet.”
Councilman Peter Cunningham said that he agrees it is unconventional but that he doesn’t believe the city has lost any leverage because a redevelopment agreement has not yet been memorialized.
Director of Community Development Chris Brown said the city is still negotiating the redevelopment agreement.
Several residents came before the council to voice parking concerns about the increase in parking costs in municipal garages.
This comes after the City Council voted in November on several parking ordinances, one of which increased the price of parking in municipal garages, because they are approximately “30 percent below market rate.”
The new rates for monthly standard municipal parking passes for residents at Garage B, Garage D, Garage G, and Midtown, increase from $235 to $250; $185 to $240; $160 to $200; and $185 to $235, respectively. The Garden Street garage remains the same at $200.
The revenues generated from price increases will be reinvested into improvements to municipal parking facilities.
Resident and Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano said he believes residents should have been given a letter notifying them of the change and that the price increases should have been done in increments instead of all at once.
A resident of Marine View, Lorna Courtney-Martinez, said “all this time I had not one shred of an idea of the increase in our garages. I am not questioning an increase, but a $40 increase is absurd on top of the fact I pay for a reserved spot because I shattered my left leg.”
“Is there any way we can revisit this to do this fairly? … And not whack people with an increase during the holidays after a huge fire,” she added, noting that the increase would result in more people parking on the street because not everyone can afford to pay it.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com or comment online at hudsonreporter.com.