In a meeting that was otherwise overshadowed by numerous calls for embattled Councilwoman Amy DeGise to resign, the Jersey City Council managed to get through its entire agenda on August 17.
Among the numerous items, they approved four retail cannabis applicants, introduced potential changes for a redevelopment plan in the Paulus Hook neighborhood, and voted to opposed a turnpike expansion.
In the continuing growth of the retail cannabis business in Jersey City, the council (with Councilman Rich Boggiano absent) unanimously gave their support to four retail cannabis applicants.
The four are Ufoira at 138 Griffith St. in the Heights, Jersey Leaf at 554 West Side Ave. on the West Side, Butler & Baldwin at 75 Martin Luther King Drive in Greenville, and Decades Dispensary at 404 Central Ave., also in the Heights.
All four have received approval by the city’s Cannabis Control Board. Jersey Leaf, Butler & Baldwin and Decades have also received Planning Board with the exception of Uforia, who have not been heard before the board. Jersey Leaf has also received a conditional license by the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
Council President Joyce Watterman had notably voted for the support of Butler & Baldwin; her daughter, Jennifer Moore, is one of the business principals. She later told Hudson County View the day after she forgot to abstain from the vote and that she regretted her decision.
“I realize that my vote cannot be retracted, but I wish to note that the vote was unanimous and that the vote which I cast was not decisive in the measure’s passage,” she said. “I regret this error and pledge to be more mindful in the future.”
The council was set to vote on two other applicants, the Cannabis Place 420 Corp. and Oceanfront Holdings, but they were withdrawn from the agenda 7-1, with Councilman Daniel Rivera voting against the motion.
For the Cannabis Place, who are looking to create a store at 1542 JFK Blvd., Watterman said that it was brought to their attention that an unidentified person who applied with the applicant didn’t live in New Jersey.
“Part of the issue is when the community comes to us, and I want it clear, because with this cannabis, it should be done right,” she said. “We shouldn’t even have stopped this, because when the community comes to the [cannabis board] and complains, they should investigate it. An investigation should take place there and not here.”
Cannabis Place’s CEO Osburt Orduna told Hudson County View that they had responded back to the cannabis board after being notified about local ownership, and that five percent of the company is now owned by a New Jersey resident.
As for Oceanfront, who are looking to create a store at 141 Newark Ave., Councilman James Solomon said they are going to have a meeting with them next week.
Potential Paulus Hook redevelopment takes first step
The council unanimously voted to introduce an ordinance that would make amendments to the Tidewater Basin Redevelopment Plan for a potential project near the Paulus Hook neighborhood.
The amendments, which were approved by the Planning Board back in June, would pave the way for a new 401-unit development by Sussex Street Associates on 177 Grand St., with a 26-story building on Grand St. and Marin Blvd., and a 16-story building on Sussex and Van Vorst St.. The two buildings would be connected by a four-story base building shaped like a Z.
It would specifically permit the maximum height for any building on Grand Street and Sussex Street to be 300 and 190 feet tall respectively, which would be enough to accommodate the heights of the proposed buildings in said locations at 275 and 178 feet tall respectively.
It would also add an Inclusionary Housing Overlay District to allow the construction of mixed income housing. Representatives from Sussex said at the time that the owner is willing to set aside 15 percent for affordable housing, which would be about 60 units, to comply with the new inclusionary zoning ordinance.
Diane Kaese, the president of the Historic Paulus Hook Association, continued her opposition towards the potential changes, saying that the height of the project is something that isn’t “very adaptive and pleasant for the neighborhood.”
“The proposed changes are not appropriate or acceptable,” she said. “But we also know that the council promised that we’d be able to work with the planning department on these amendments; that has not happened. We encourage the planning department to work with the neighborhood and that the council reject these amendments.”
Another resident, Daniel Sparado, also spoke out against the potential changes, accusing the Planning Board of ignoring public comments and catering to developers instead.
“Based on the destruction of this historic buffer district represented in this ordinance, I can only assume the same will follow in the historic district,” he said. “What’s to stop developers from doing that as long as they invoke the IZO?”
The council unanimously voted on a resolution to oppose a proposed expansion of the New Jersey Turnpike from Exit 14 in Newark to the Holland Tunnel, which has been opposed by a number of environmental advocates who say that it will cause more traffic and pollution.
They also passed a resolution that will grant the Jersey City Public Schools the use of the southwest corner of the Paulus Hook Park during school hours for a year. The school district can use the park for recess activities and as space for pick-up and drop-off for students from P.S. 16. Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey was the only dissenting vote.