At Monday’s caucus, the City Council tried to clear the smoke around rules governing approvals for the growing list of cannabis business applicants. Simultaneously, the council wants the state to plan for bike crossings along the Hackensack River bridge.

With two wannabe cannabis retailers seeking the go-ahead at tonight’s meeting, council members peppered city bureaucrats with queries about mandated distances between cannabis retailers and other issues.

They also raised concerns about whether the city’s Cannabis Control Board, operating out of the city Division of Commerce, has been passing along applicants to the council without first checking to see if they meet the operating qualifications.

Cannaboutique Jersey City
Rendering of Cannaboutique dispensary approved for Christopher Columbus Drive

So far, more than 20 applicants have received local approvals to run cannabis enterprises. Proof of state license approval is required before an applicant can apply for city zoning permits.

“We should come up with a check list for the CCB to accept or deny an applicant,” Ward A Councilperson Denise Ridley said, “and make sure that distance (apart from another cannabis shop) is included.”

Yes, City Corporation Counsel Peter Baker replied, “there is a list of factors” the CCB is mandated to look at in reviewing an application adding that he’d prompt that board to make sure that its members consider all of them before passing on the application to the council for deliberations.

Ward F Councilmember Frank Gilmore and others wondered how to deal with two or more applicants vying to open a cannabis venture at the same location. Baker said he’d “do more research” on that issue. Gilmore said there may be three applicants vying for a location in the area of Grand Street and Communipaw Ave.

For this week’s meeting, the council was being asked to support applications by Green Flamingo Dispensary LLC to operate a retail cannabis business at 447 Central Ave. It has pledged to provide $7,500 to Miracle Temple Pentecostal Church for charitable endeavors.

Asked about competitors looking to set up shop in neighboring sites along the Heights’ main business district, city Division of Commerce licensing director Maynard Woodson said: “We do have saturation on Central Avenue,” noting that four other applicants were previously sanctioned by the council for locations along Central.

Meanwhile, another applicant, Local Modiv LLC, is hoping for council endorsement for its cannabis retail business proposed for 155 Newark Ave., but Councilmember-at-large Daniel Rivera cautioned that some neighboring merchants were “up in arms” about the prospect. The CCB had previously denied the application, having been unconvinced that the applicant could prove it had “secured a location” for the business, but a Superior Court decision in December 2022 overturned the denial. Local Modiv has pledged assistance to four nonprofits.

“We may put a pause on this application,” Council President Joyce Watterman speculated.

What the city isn’t interesting in pausing is the state Department of Transportation’s plans to rehabilitate the Rt. 1&9 Truck Bridge linking Jersey City and south Kearny over the Hackensack River—with one big qualification.

A resolution proposed for Wednesday’s council meeting calls on DOT to include, as part of the fix-up project, plans for including the span as “an important link for several regional bicycle and pedestrian connectivity initiatives,” such as the Morris Canal Greenway and the Hackensack Riverfront Greenway.

The resolution says, “Jersey City strongly recommends that rehabilitation of (the bridge) include upgrades to the sidewalks for accommodation for bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Barkha Patel, the city’s director of infrastructure, said the administration is asking the council’s support in pushing the state to “expanding the greenway” in the region in light of DOT’s apparent reluctance to consider the proposal.

Both the city and state, however, do agree that the 1,400-foot-long, 6-lane bridge, built in 1954, needs fixing. Repairs include replacement of main operating ropes, obsolete and deteriorated primary electrical and mechanical components, barrier and warning gates, lift span grid deck and all approach span deck, curb-mounted railing and repairs to steel girder, truss, substructure and approach roadway.

Featured photo By Jim Henderson

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...