Could this site be home to a cannabis cultivator?

Cannabis license ordinance not yet adopted

The Bayonne Planning Board has adopted a redevelopment plan for the former site of PDQ Plastics at 7 Lower Hook Road. 

The city council authorized the planning board to draw up a redevelopment plan at its December meeting after both entities declared the property a non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment. 

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City Planner Suzanne Mack presented the redevelopment plan to the board, saying it was an “opportunity to bring in jobs.” The property is in a heavy industrial area, surrounded by oil storage tanks, in use and abandoned. 

“Many [tanks] are abandoned so it puts it in perspective that we are actually having a developer come in who wants to develop a warehouse and active business in that area,” Mack said. “We believe it is very consistent with our master plan motive.” 

Mack said the goal is to create economic development opportunities that will generate new jobs, increase tax rateables, and improve the appearance of the area.  

Permitted uses

Permitted principal uses include terminal facilities, Flex Space for commercial and light industrial, and a warehouse transload facility. The site has both truck and rail access, which makes it ideal for a transload facility for shipping transfers from truck to rail or vice versa.

Fully enclosed light manufacturing establishments are also permitted, including the manufacture, assembly, packing or treatment of merchandise from previously prepared materials, including pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, food processing, electrical and electronic equipment, woodworking, furniture, and upholstery, textiles and apparel, awnings and venetian blinds, machine tools and metal working. Other permitted uses include equipment sales, services and rentals including heavy equipment; seaport support services and operations; high-cube warehousing and short-term storage; cold storage warehousing; transportation support services and supply-chain logistics and distribution; renewable energy producing entities and their structures; green technology; wireless telecommunication towers, facilities and antennas; and agricultural growing operations.

Permitted accessory uses include outdoor storage, business offices and administrative support space, off-street parking and loading, signage, solar arrays, and roadway barriers. 

The maximum building height is 80 feet, maximum coverage is 75 percent, and maximum lot coverage is 90 percent. A minimum of 10 percent of the redevelopment area must consist of open space and or green or sustainable features. 

A developer would be required to make public improvements, including repaving roadways within the redevelopment area, constructing sidewalks on all street frontages, conducting environmental remediation at the site, constructing site lighting, and handling their own trash and recycling collection. 

Cannabis growing operation? 

Mack said the principal use of agricultural growing operations is “very timely” and is “something that has been happening in the area” recently. Mack said this would include vertical farms, hydroponics, and gardening. 

“It’s a very big market, and this would be a very good use for the site,” Mack said. 

Also included is the growing, cultivation and processing of cannabis, sparking a discussion among planning board members. 

Commissioner Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski noted that the city has not come up with a plan for cannabis establishments yet, having not yet passed its ordinance to establish licenses and regulations. Under the proposed ordinance, there can be only one license for cannabis cultivation in the city. 

“We anticipate restricting the locations and using zoning laws to determine how many and where it can be,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “If we now allow that to be a permitted use here, we cannot then apply [the zoning laws] to this because it’s already pre-approved.” 

She continued: “I’m not saying that it’s not a good location for it. In my eyes it would be a good location, but I believe it should wait.” 

Preventing sneaky applications

City Planner Mika Apte agreed with Ashe-Nadrowski, but said that for the permitted use of cannabis cultivation, approvals would be required by the city council and planning board.  

The use was also listed to prevent a developer from using the broad umbrella of agricultural growing operations to apply to grow cannabis without explicit approval from the city council or planning board. 

“Agricultural farming could mean anything right now,” Apte said. 

Ashe-Nadrowski still had concerns that the inclusion of the permitted use for cannabis cultivation could mean the site would be the definitive location of the sole cannabis cultivator in the city. 

“By putting this in the plan, you’re saying ‘You’re automatically one of them,’” Ashe-Nadrowski said. 

She said the city plans to prohibit cannabis cultivation in residential areas. In granting the permitted use of cannabis cultivation for this location, she said the city no longer has control over the location. 

“We want to put some controls on where and how many,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “If we just start granting these uses then by right its theirs.” 

She signaled support for changing the language to prevent developers from sneaking the permitted use in under the guise of agricultural growing operations, while also allowing the city council the right to make all decisions regarding the location of cannabis cultivation. 

The word “permitted” was removed from the phrase “permitted use.” Now, cannabis cultivation is not a permitted use but a use subject to planning board and city council approval. 

Developer in disagreement

Project Planner John McDonough, representing the property owner, suggested changes “to upgrade the quality of industrial use,” including increasing the maximum lot coverage, and maximum building coverage.  McDonough said the developer is looking to construct a transload facility and that open space would compromise maneuverability on the site.  

According to McDonough, the developer took issue with the 80 foot height maximum, noting there is no current height requirement in the industrial area. The developer requested a zero foot setback instead of the required five foot setback. McDonough said the developer also had a problem with the number of required electric parking spaces. 

Apte said that the plan was drawn up in cooperation with the redevelopment counsel that has worked with the developer. He said the developer can seek variances when submitting an application for final site plan approval. 

Frank Alessi, the developer, said that they had provided comments to the redevelopment counsel that were not reflected in the plan. He said the building coverage needed to increase to accommodate the construction of sewer infrastructure. 

The board unanimously approved the plan. The city council will likely adopt the plan at its next meeting on March 17 at 7 p.m. To attend, go to bayonnenj.org and click on the event on the calendar webpage.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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