The ludicrousness of the Story pot dispensary approval ordeal

Dear Editor:

Last night’s (Sept. 19th) Hoboken Planning Board Meeting (the fourth such marathon) lasted over 6 hours! Story Dispensary’s planner made his presentation stating that all 17 conditions required for conditional use had been met, even though he was relying on contradictory testimony from other members of the “Story team” (pun intended).

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When questioned about the specifics of the conditions, he repeatedly stated that ordinances were perfect and that Story’s proposed pot dispensary would “enhance” the neighborhood. When asked for details on how a marijuana dispensary located in a residential building in the most densely populated area in Hoboken would be a plus to the neighborhood, particularly given the new “common sense Cannabis regulations” intended to protect residents (adopted almost unanimously by the City Council and supported by the Mayor), he repeatedly replied that Story’s application was only subject to the prior regulations, which are no longer in effect.

Apparently, municipalities are not allowed to learn from errors or oversights of the past and must allow old and inappropriate rules to be exploited if the applicant insists. Hoboken residents be damned!

A full room of residents witnessed innumerable repetitions of definitions, conditions and rules that were parsed ad nauseam by lawyers, experts, and planning board members. One example, on which more than 30 minutes was spent – sometime around midnight- was a quibbling dispute by Story’s lawyer about the meaning of the word “tavern,” as she tried to dispute the traffic expert’s description of the former Hudson Tavern as a “quality restaurant” (a term used by traffic engineers when comparing the types of impact businesses have on traffic patterns).

“Quality restaurants” create less traffic than take-out businesses, and the community has argued that the proposed dispensary, which would have nine cash registers and transaction times of about 5-10 minutes per person (according to previous sworn statements made by the applicant), would significantly increase traffic as compared to the former business located on the premises. Residents have argued that given this change in use, a full traffic impact study should have been conducted, which the applicant doesn’t want to do.

In an attempt to dismiss community calls for a full traffic study, Story’s lawyer then proceeded to argue that the word “tavern” in “Hudson Tavern” meant it was not a “quality restaurant.” As bizarre as this seems to anyone who has ever gone to restaurants such as the Tavern on the Green, Gramercy Tavern, or Fraunces Tavern in New York City, all of which are fine dining establishments that have bars, the Story Team lawyer argued that the word “tavern” in the name meant that Hudson Tavern (where clients typically spent 1-2 hours per visit) did not have a lower traffic impact than the proposed cannabis dispensary.

The dispensary applicant is continuing with its pattern of trying to keep its conditional approval from any potential scrutiny by Hoboken residents, starting from day one when neighbors were not notified of the applicant’s appearance in front of the Hoboken Cannabis Review Board, through the present, when the applicant is deliberately trying to avoid doing a complete traffic impact study to honestly understand the potential impacts this business would generate. The former land use regulation might technically be on their side but, certainly, so will the bad faith with which Story has acted towards local residents.

Roberto Verthelyi

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