Woodcliff Lake Council Exploring Cannabis Industry; Residents Push Back

In a marathon meeting of the Woodcliff Lake Borough Council on May 22, 2023, members and Borough officials deliberated on a wide range of topics, from marijuana legalization in New Jersey to municipal financial planning. The most contentious discussion centered around the Council’s formation of a Cannabis Exploratory Committee and its potential implications for Woodcliff Lake.

The Cannabis Committee, formed in line with a Borough ordinance passed in 2021, is looking into the potential impacts and benefits of various forms of cannabis businesses such as medical cultivators, dispensaries, and delivery services. Councilman Schnall affirmed that no decisions were being made during the meeting but reassured residents that the Council was thoroughly exploring all aspects of cannabis businesses. Mayor Rendo also emphasized the absence of personal interests among council members in the matter.

Public opinion, however, was divided. Jennifer Charnow, the Coordinator of the Hills Valley Coalition and the Woodcliff Lake Stigma Free representative, opposed the exploration of a cannabis business, citing a contradiction with the Council’s efforts to keep drugs out of the community. Another resident, Stephanie Wong, presented a petition signed by 449 people against the establishment of a cannabis dispensary. The petition voiced concerns over potential increased traffic, loitering, decreased home values, and reputational harm.

Among the other significant decisions and discussions, the Council approved an annual $45,000 agreement with Appraisal Systems, a significant increase from the previous $35,000 agreement. Resident Josh Stern expressed concerns about the complexity of the appraisal system and suggested an evaluation of the school district’s funding because of it.

The council also approved Ordinance No. 23-04, amending the “Alcoholic Beverages” section of the Borough Code of Woodcliff Lake, and introduced two more ordinances regarding “Vehicles and Traffic” and public improvements due to Tropical Storm Ida damage. Moreover, the Council decided to issue bonds not exceeding $2,857,000 under the Local Bond Law to finance borough projects, with a debt period of usefulness estimated at 32.46 years from the issuance date.

Additional updates included the Arbor Day celebrations, rabies clinic success, and seniors’ trip to Paterson reported by Councilwoman Higgins. Safety concerns about the school crosswalk and walkway were also brought up by Councilman Pollack, highlighting ongoing investigations by the police department’s traffic bureau and school administration to improve drop-off and pick-up procedures.

Council President Margolis announced the summer pool opening, Memorial Day Ceremony, a summer camp opening, and Woodcliff Lake Day. He also mentioned that the Tice Senior Center would be rented out to resident organizations and that the Sol Restaurant’s liquor license would be transferred.

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