Hoboken City Council approves expansion of cannabis board

The council also voted to prohibit feeding of wildlife in the city and introduced a rent control ordinance

The Hoboken City Council at their June 1 meeting. Photo by Mark Koosau.

At the Hoboken City Council’s meeting Wednesday night, the council looked at more cannabis regulations, prohibited the feeding of wildlife in the city, and introduced an ordinance that could limit the amount of rent increases.

Expanding cannabis board

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The council unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance that will expand the Cannabis Review Board which reviews cannabis applicants in Hoboken, and sets new stipulations for the Community Host Agreements.

The board will be expanded from three members to seven, with the four new members being Hoboken residents. Two residents will be appointed by the council for a two year term, and two will be appointed by the mayor to serve for said mayor’s term.

Currently, the board consists of the mayor or their designee, a council-designated council member and the Director of Health and Human Services. Business Administrator Jason Freeman, Council President Michael Russo and Health and Human Services Director Leo Pellegrini are on the board.

The ordinance also stipulates that the board must agree to a Community Host Agreement with the applicants after any endorsement they make.

As the original ordinance stated that the agreement must establish the applicants “willing commitment to the community,” the new one also added that they must commit to the surrounding neighborhoods, “enchanted” neighborhood security and social services programs.

The agreement will also have to be put up for a resolution and ratification by a majority of the cannabis board during a meeting, will be referred to the mayor for final negotiations and be voted for approval by the City Council before it’s executed.

A number of people spoke in favor of the ordinance, saying that it will add more transparency and public oversight to the cannabis board.

“It will offer some diversity, thought, non-political opinion and public input from the residents that are not affiliated with the administration,” said resident Sue Keenan. “I think it’s a step in all of us feeling a little bit better on this journey, but we don’t know where this is going to end, and there’s a lot of people that think we’re going too fast.”

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who was one of the co-sponsors of the ordinance, said that most people on the council “are struggling to figure out what to do” regarding cannabis regulations, and later said that a community host agreement will be good for the community.

“We’re still evolving on the best way to approach it,” she said. “We’ve done it a certain way, and I think being able to have more of the public in that conversation is really what the spirit of what this whole ordinance is.”

The bird is not the word

The council also unanimously approved the prohibition of feeding birds and wildlife in the city, including in public streets, sidewalks, parks and public places.

Environmental Services Director Jennifer Gonzalez said that the ordinance is a clarification on their nuisance ordinances regarding feeding wildlife.

“It has come after several repeated constituent concerns that we’ve received in the Department of Environmental Services specific to feeding birds and an increasing geese population in the city,” she said.

One speaker, Joy Gertner, spoke out against the ordinance, saying that she has taken care of pigeons in Union Square, Manhattan for two years, and asked if people feeding birds was an issue in the city.

“This is not a big deal,” she said. “Once I got involved with it, I’m mad at myself for not doing this earlier years ago, because pigeon are so amazing. They can be kept as pets; they’re domesticated.”

Councilman Phil Cohen argued that it wasn’t a matter of “birds starving,” but birds “living in a place where there’s food to support them naturally.”

“If Hoboken naturally cannot support a huge flock of pigeons, they will fly to a place that has food where they can prosper,” he said.

Potential reduction to rent increases

The council introduced an ordinance that would reduce the amount of rent paid in rent-controlled units by decreasing rent increases from 7.5 percent to 4 percent per year.

It would also reduce the rent increase in a decontrolled vacant unit from 25 to 10 percent based on the last rental amount, and only if the previous tenant had left voluntarily. It also limits when a unit can be decontrolled from three to five years each.

The ordinance was introduced 7-0-2, with Councilwoman Jen Giattino abstaining and Councilman Ruben Ramos not present at the time.

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