A Hoboken planning council meeting to hear a controversial recreational cannabis application ended on a cliffhanger on Thursday evening, when the evening ran late due to the number of residents who wanted to tell the council what they thought of proposal.
The candidates were transferred to another meeting in August.
The council had heard from Story Dispensary, which wanted to open a recreational dispensary on the site of the old Hudson Tavern in northeast Hoboken. The story has been criticized since their first Cannabis Board hearing in February on how a dispensary would affect the neighborhood there.
Since then, several council members led by Councilman Tiffanie Fisher, who represents the 2nd Ward where the dispensary might be, have called on candidates to withdraw their candidacies. The co-owners living above the Old Tavern also sued to stop them, alleging they had been misled when it was created.
Despite the backlash and ongoing litigation, Story moved forward to be heard before the planning board, although they were only able to get one person, Aaron Epstein, a business partner and former resident of Hoboken, to testify before a packed council chamber. .
Epstein is owned by a company providing management services for Story. He said he had worked in the cannabis industry for six years and was also the chief financial officer and vice president of the Garden State Dispensary.
During his testimony, Epstein said Story would have all retail operations on the first floor, with an entrance on 14th Street and a security guard office to check IDs. He also added that they plan to hire 15-20 staff locally, that the location will have a maximum occupancy of 91 people, and that he estimates an average of 80-100 customers per day.
He then said that they would not have drinking areas, while not allowing it outside the property. They are also planning to have two security guards who will be ex-law enforcement, one at reception and the other watching outside.
For traffic and transportation, Epstein said his goal was to have “very little” impact on traffic and parking, and offered to secure a parking space for his employees and subsidize parking expenses. public transport. On the consumer side, they are considering validating parking for customers and planning to offer discounts to those who take public transport.
He also said they planned to have the products unloaded from the delivery vehicles via sprinter vans in a nearby car park and escorted by armed guards, with deliveries taking place once a day.
Martin Calabar, an attorney representing the condo association suing Story, cross-examined Epstein for the naysayers. Calabar asked about their advanced online ordering programs, and Epstein claimed that since they still have to pick up inside, it wouldn’t decrease the number of customers coming in.
Calabar also asked whether or not Story would sell edible cannabis, to which Epstein replied that they would and offer all products approved by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
A long line of speakers then formed to question Epstein about his testimony. One of the topics he was pressed on was how many people would be driving out of town to Hoboken.
“There are three types of customers you’re going to have: walk-ins, delivery people, so people can be in another city, and then you’re going to have your deliveries,” resident Mary Ondrejka said. “What do you guess for your location?”
Epstein replied that he thought out-of-town shopping would be “unlikely”, arguing that there would be other locations open such as in Jersey City, Secaucus and North Bergen.
“We’re not a manufacturer, so it’s not like we’re selling our proprietary product,” he said. “Nobody else has access to it. So the products we sell will be the exact same products that are in other dispensaries.”
He was also asked about the use of security guards, both at the store, and armed guards protecting product deliveries.
“You said that [the security guards] were going to be responsible for preventing people from loitering [the] space immediately outside the facility,” said resident Elaine Fenna. “So how are they going to enforce this? Will they have the ability to get hold of people? If people aren’t listening to what they say, what’s their next step? What are the parameters to be able to draw their weapons? »
“If you have someone disrupting a business, you try to give them verbal warnings,” Epstein replied. “If they cause a problem and don’t leave, you call the police. If they pose an immediate threat to the business or the person, then other measures, I think, would be appropriate.
“Including the use of force? Fenna asked.
“If the individual presented a life-threatening situation to any of our consumers or our employees, then that would be an appropriate time for security to intervene,” Epstein responded.
Councilwoman Fisher herself asked Epstein about the impact of traffic in the area. “What do you think of how you are going to help prevent these people from occupying a very rare parking lot?” she asked. “It affects everyone who lives within three or four blocks, doesn’t it?”
Epstein replied that there was nothing that could solve the city’s parking problem. “Our traffic engineer will testify that we think[…] going to be less impactful than other potential uses,” he said. “On top of that, we have this comprehensive plan in place which I have gone through in detail which involves information, education, rebates, market validation.”
“I hate putting words into other businesses,” he continued. “But for businesses in this area, it goes above and beyond any other commercial establishment, so what they’ve done to try to alleviate parking in this area.”
With the meeting lasting past 11 p.m., the board ultimately decided to adjourn and move the candidates to their August 2 meeting at 7 p.m.
For updates on this story and others, check out hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at [email protected] or on his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.