Hoboken City Council oversees new cannabis rules and Poggi Press acquisition

The Hoboken City Council looked at new cannabis rules and acquiring the Poggi Press property at their March 9 meeting. Photo by Mark Koosau.

At a five-hour Hoboken City Council meeting, the council handled ordinances for new cannabis regulations in the city, acquiring the Poggi Press property for a new municipal facility, and other legislative items.

Corralling the cannabis

In the wake of the backlash to a proposed retail cannabis store, the council introduced an ordinance adding new regulations, based on proposals made by Mayor Ravi Bhalla last week.

The ordinance would restrict the total number of permitted cannabis facilities (medical or recreational) in the city to six, with only up to three allowed in each ward. It would also restrict establishments from being 600 feet within a school or early childhood learning facility, and require applicants to the city’s Cannabis Review Board to notify all property owners within 200 feet about the proposed location.

It would also restrict cannabis dispensaries from being on a commercial zone that stretches through 1st St.

The changes come after a number of residents were critical of a retail cannabis applicant called Story Dispensary, who are looking to set up shop at the site of the former Hudson Tavern bar in northeast Hoboken. Residents wondered how a store there would affect a residential area, and the lack of transparency in the process.

Councilman Phil Cohen said that Health and Human Services Director Leo Pellegrini is “really looking forward” to getting the limit on applications. “He’s got a ton of applications, and right now there is no limit,” said Cohen. “Having a limited six is important.”

Councilman Joe Quintero was one of the only few who opposed the ordinance, saying that he was concerned that the 600 feet rule for schools and learning centers would “effectively ban the situation.”

“That would do away with the social justice issues that we’re looking forward to,” he said. “I think a lot of this is based on some unfounded stigma. We need some time to educate the public on on what this is really going to be like.”

The ordinance was introduced on first reading 7-2, with Quintero and Council President Michael Russo (who’s also a member of the cannabis board), voting no.

Another ordinance up for introduction would have added more restrictions to dispensaries, but failed to pass first reading. It would have barred them from the Marineview 1 and 2, additionally limit them within 600 feet from parks, and restrict them from being built in a residential condominium unless the condominium associate provides written approval to the cannabis board before hearing the application.

That ordinance failed 5-4, with Council members Michael DeFusco, Tiffanie Fisher, Jen Giattino and Ruben Ramos voting yes.

Acquiring Poggi Press

The council took another step toward creating a new public facility at the site of the Poggi Press building, despite the objections of the property owner in recent weeks. The ordinance adopted will allow the city to acquire the land either through a negotiated sale or via eminent domain.

The city is seeking to turn the property at 1501 Adams St. into a new public facility in the wake of the Monarch agreement, in which the city will vacate their current public works garage at 256 Observer Hwy. It was initially going to be a replacement public works garage, but it has now been proposed by Bhalla to include a new public safety headquarters, a community center and a branch of the public library.

The owner of Poggi Press, Charlie Poggi, has been opposed to the acquisition of his property, saying that he wants to redevelop it himself. Speaking to the council at the meeting, he lambasted Bhalla and the city government over it, and went a step further by accusing the city of targeting him because other potential properties for a facility were owned by developers with political connections, while he himself had none.

“At the end of [his State of the City] speech, the mayor spoke of the love of family, of the love of community, the love of our beloved city of Hoboken. It’s clear he wasn’t talking about my family, or my community or my Hoboken,” he said.

Speaking on the ordinance, DeFusco asked if they have discussed with nearby municipalities such as Jersey City or Weehawken in outsourcing and sharing services, saying that the city should avoid getting into a legal battle with a Hoboken business.

Business Administrator Jason Freeman argued that they can’t share services for the Department of Public Works outside of the city, to which DeFusco disputed.

“To get into a prolonged legal battle by giving the blank check to engage in negotiations, which have not been going so well for you, is not exactly what I think is in the best interest of at least my neighborhood,” he said, referring the current public works garage in his ward.

It was adopted 5-4, with DeFusco, Fisher, Giattino and Ramos voting no. A bond ordinance that would have authorized $40 million to acquire the property was carried over to the next meeting.

Other legislation

An ordinance that creates new outdoor dining rules, including the current rules for sidewalk cafes and the measures for parklets and streateries that came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, was adopted 5-2-2, with Fisher and Giattino voting no and DeFusco and Ramos abstaining.

They also unanimously introduced an ordinance to end the city’s rent increase moratorium that was enacted in the wake of the pandemic, which will expire after the city ended it’s COVID state of emergency on Monday.

The council also unanimously passed a resolution to support Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion, urging federal representatives to advocate for the United States and to provide defensive support for Ukraine, and asking the New Jersey state government to provide Ukrainians fleeing the war safe refugee in the state by providing temporary protected status as well as program and support.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.