Rutherford’s Green Debate: Will Retail Cannabis Boost the Borough?

In a recent Rutherford Borough Council meeting, the potential future of cannabis was the primary focus of discussion. Councilman Matthew Coakley introduced a motion for a non-referendum question about class five cannabis licenses for retail purposes.

Rutherford could soon allow retail cannabis establishments, but with certain restrictions. The proposal stipulates that no retail cannabis setups would be permitted within the Park Avenue, Union Avenue business districts, or any areas west of Route 17. Only adults aged 21 and above would be able to purchase cannabis products, and sales would be subject to state and local municipal tax. The borough stands to gain two percent of all class 5 license sales, if this goes through.

Councilman Coakley, diving into the issue at hand, mentioned, “…we have decided to put forth the effort to allow for class five cannabis licenses to the public.” Citing a Rutgers study, Coakley highlighted an intriguing aspect: towns adopting these licenses could see a property value uptick of 1.6%. He said, “Rutgers released a study last September [that] shows that municipalities that adopt class 5 licenses see property values rise by 1.6 percent.”

Coakley urged, “I’d like to ask everyone discuss this with an open mind, and I am open to any and all questions.” The council plans to hold a town hall for further discussions and to address questions.

Beyond cannabis, residents vocalized concerns. Shuttle service interruptions received flak, with one resident remarking, “Everything else is on Facebook…why was the ball dropped?” Concerns were also raised over the borough’s website management and the Chamber of Commerce expenses.

Comcast representatives touched upon their franchise agreement’s renewal, set to expire later this year. Cara Mastriano, a Comcast representative, clarified the process, noting, “Comcast has 30 days to file for Renewal with the state… the consent ordinance is simply a right-of-way agreement.”

In the borough’s infrastructure sphere, updates poured in about various projects, such as the PSEG restoration, speed control initiatives on Chestnut Street, and the completion of family bathrooms in the borough hall. The borough engineer engaged in a back-and-forth with Mayor Frank Nunziato about potential adjustments, particularly concerning carpet tiles and a wall’s construction.

Tennis enthusiasts also had their say. Sue Lynn Toner voiced her hopes for local tennis courts, asking if they were part of the Memorial Park field renovations, adding, “we would love to have lights.” Addressing such infrastructural aspirations, the Borough Administrator said, “We did get five million dollars…expect the improvements to happen within the next two to three years.”

As the meeting wound down, there were further announcements: a sidebar agreement with Union AFSCME New Jersey Local 2420, and a nod to the town’s doggy parade.

But for now, all eyes will be on the upcoming town hall. With the retail cannabis discussion likely to be the center of attraction, residents are keen to see if Rutherford will light up with new cannabis establishments in the near future.

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