Story Dispensary’s quest to gain Planning Board approval for a recreational cannabis dispensary in Hoboken ended without a conclusion again on Aug. 2, as the application was adjourned to Aug. 11 due to the length of the meeting.
The applicants have sought to open a dispensary at the site of the former Hudson Tavern in the northeast part of the city, but have been dealing a with controversy over its potential impact on the neighborhood, and are facing a lawsuit by the condo association above the proposed location to stop them from setting up shop.
Story was initially heard at a Planning Board meeting in June, but were only able to have Arron Epstein, a business partner, testify about their operational plans as he was peppered with many questions by the public, to the point where the board had adjourned the meeting due to being late at night.
Returning before the board again, Story was only able to have architect Michael Tormey testify before the board about their site plans. While the meeting was on the ground floor conference room at City Hall this time, the room still filled up.
Tormey explained that they’re proposing an interior renovation of the space, and that they will do “very little” exterior work as they don’t want to disturb the existing facade.
Outside the shop, they plan to install an ADA ramp, additional planters at the recommendation of the Historic Preservation Committee, a mitigation garden at the request for storm water runoff aid by the Hudson County Planning Board, and a bike rack on Hudson Street.
Tormey said the entrance to the dispensary will be relocated from Hudson Street to 14th Street at the request of the zoning department. He also said that as a requirement of the industry, they will be adding a gradient window screening from the interior so that children and most adults wouldn’t be able to see through.
As for the operations in the interior, Tormey explained that customers would enter and check-in at the front desk before waiting in a waiting room, then tenter the dispensary which includes display cases, nine registers and a pick-up order window, before exiting the shop.
The first floor will also have a storage room, a packing room, a break room, and a DEA cage, which Tormey explained is a reinforced storage room where the product would be stored.
Tormey said that the entire facility has a maximum occupancy of 91 people, with 55 for the waiting room, and 17 for the dispensary itself. Commissioner Joan Allman asked if the prior usage of the Hudson Tavern is the same, to which Tormey replied that a bar could hold “a lot more people.”
Down at the basement level, he continued that product will not be stored down there, but instead supplies such as cleaning and bathroom.
After Tormey’s testimony, Martin Cabalar, an attorney representing the condo association suing Story, cross-examined him. He attempted to ask questions on the store being on the border of a commercial and residential zone, but was objected by Story’s attorney, Jennifer Porter.
Cabalar then cross-examined Tormey on the window gradient, asking if residents in the apartment building across the street could see into the dispensary. Tormey replied that a small number could see, but that someone that walks nearby would not be able to.
Cabalar then asked about their loading space location, to which Porter responded to Epstein’s testimony that the county recommended a loading space. Chairman Frank Magaletta then read a letter from the county that they agree with adding a zone at the southwest corner of 14th Street.
Tormey then faced public questions ranging from the occupancy limits of the store to the gradient films on the windows. After about three and a half-hours, the board eventually decided to adjourn the meeting and move Story over to their next meeting on August 11 at 7 p.m..
Before they ended, Porter said that they plan to have their traffic consultant and their planner testify, while Cabalar added that they have two witnesses that plan to testify as well.
After the meeting, Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who has been opposed to Story in her 2nd Ward and attended the meeting, said in an interview that “it’s just really obvious that the interests of the community are not being considered in any of their testimony.”
Fisher has tried through social media to organize resistance to the application and urge residents to attend the meetings and be heard.
“This is private interests looking to make considerable profit at the expense of the neighborhood,” she said. “You can see that throughout their testimony. They’re intentionally done downplaying expected volumes, they’re intentionally presenting that they will be able to accommodate what are going to be exceptionally large volumes of people coming to this neighborhood, and it’s a shame.”
When asked if there are any intentional filibuster to delay Story’s application, Fisher denied it and said that whenever there’s a controversial applicant, they get a lot of questions from the public.
“Who’s going to be managing that burden?” she said. “Is it just the residents have to absorb that burden? Because the way that this is going it seems to be that the applicant doesn’t; they can just create the burden and wash their hands away.”