Story Dispensary has unofficially become Hoboken’s Phil Connors from the movie “Groundhog Day,” as they were carried for the third time in a row in their prolonged quest to gain Planning Board approval for a cannabis dispensary.
The controversial applicant seeking to create a retail dispensary at the former Hudson Tavern has been met with criticism since February from the nearby neighborhood over how a cannabis store would affect the area, but have sought to get approval nonetheless.
The groundhog day loop was the same as it was from their first two board hearings: they have at least only one person to testify, an attorney for the condo association against them does cross-examination, a long line of residents questions the testifier, and then the meeting is adjourned due to being late at night and moved to another day.
This time around, the person entering the loop was William Masol, a traffic expert who testified about traffic issues. He is currently the township engineer in Chester, and was previously the township engineer in Cranford.
Masol explained that traffic studies were done by his firm, French & Parrello Associates, to determine the amount of vehicle trips from the location’s existing use as a restaurant compared to the proposed use of a dispensary. He clarified that each trip counts those to and from a location separately.
In an April report, they measured that the amount of average weekday trips, Saturday peak hours and average trips would increase for the dispensary, while the AM and PM weekday peak hour trips would decrease and slightly increase respectively.
After being heard before the Hudson County Planning Board back in May, the board had requested to look at an updated manual in which they conducted their study. Masol continued that based on a new report in May, the amount of trips overall would increase with the new use of a dispensary.
“As it relates to traffic impacts, we try to go through a process of ‘let’s take a look at what kind of trips are being generated by this use’,” he said. “Once we hit certain thresholds, we’ll say ‘alright, we need to compare this to what’s actually going on’.”
Story’s attorney, Lauren Tardanico, had asked Masol if the public concerns about the dispensary being a destination for ferry passengers from New York City was relevant to the analysis.
Masol replied they looked at vehicular traffic, and that there’s three different types of people coming to the dispensary: Hoboken residents, passerby trips such as those who take the ferry or are already on the roadway, or those that live in New York, though he noted for the final category that carrying cannabis across states is illegal.
Martin Cabalar, the attorney representing the condo association where the dispensary could be, cross-examined Masol. He asked if he had spoken to anyone who worked at the former Hudson Tavern about their operations when doing the report, to which Masol replied that he didn’t.
Cabalar also asked Masol if he was aware that the Hudson Tavern did not serve breakfast or lunch on most weekdays, to which Masol said he did not take that into consideration in the report.
After receiving numerous public questions about Masol’s testimony, Story then moved to have Arron Epstein, their business partner, return to briefly testify about the gradient screening that they plan to put on the windows.
“Here in this facility, you don’t have the gradient go all the way up,” he explained in a photo presented to the board from Garden State Dispensary in Union. “Versus the Hoboken facility where you would likely have it all the way up[…].” Epstein continued that the screening would be similar to what they plan for Hoboken.
Councilman Jim Doyle, a commissioner on the board, questioned Epstein on why the gradient in the photo doesn’t gradually get less opaque compared to what was shown at the previous meeting, to which Epstein replied that there “valid” concerns raised back then about being able to see inside the store from the apartment building across the street.
“It’s something that I did contemplate at the time,” said Epstein. “We addressed it and said that we’d be more than happy to bring [the gradient] all the way to the top.”
After four hours at around 11 p.m., the board decided to adjourn the meeting and move Story over to next month on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m..