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Public Participation Encouraged Tues. Dec. 12th Planning Board Meeting

Dec 12, 2023
Dollar Deal Store Harrison NJ

The Harrison Planning Board is scheduled to hold a meeting on Tuesday, December 12, 2023, at the Harrison Town Hall, 318 Harrison Avenue. The session, starting with a Caucus at 5:45 p.m. in the Mayor’s Conference Room on the third floor and then moving to the Council Chambers on the second floor, will address two crucial items on its agenda. Members of the public are invited and encouraged to attend this meeting, providing a platform for residents to express their opinions on both applications under discussion.

Controversial Cannabis Retail Store Proposal

The first agenda item involves a Minor Site Plan Application by Green Origin Solutions LLC for a Cannabis Retail Store at 701 North Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. Mini Mall. This proposal has sparked a debate within the community due to its proximity to local schools - merely three blocks from Harrison’s Lincoln Elementary School and two blocks from East Newark Public Elementary School.

Given that two Harrison Council members are employed by the Harrison Board of Education and Mayor James Fife’s background as a teacher, concerns regarding the impact of this cannabis store on students and the community are particularly pressing. The Planning Board has the authority to reject this location despite it being within the designated area as per the Town of Harrison Ordinance, primarily due to its closeness to educational institutions and what many residents describe as the terrible lack of parking in the neighborhood.

This application marks a shift from the previously approved site at 615 South Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. in the Harrison Redevelopment Zone, which does not neighbor any public school. The lack of opposition from Mayor Fife and the Council to this relocation has raised questions about their stance on the relocation of the Cannabis business from its South Rodgers approved location to the other side of Town on North Rodgers Blvd.

Pocket Park in Redevelopment Zone

The second item on the agenda is the proposal to amend the Harrison Redevelopment Plan. This amendment would lead to the closure of South 5th Street between Cape May Street and Crucible Drive to traffic, making way for a Pocket Park. This plan aims to increase green space in the area and will be open to the public, despite being privately owned. It is a nice gesture by the owner of the property to create a public green space for the community.

Environmental Concerns in the Community

Compounding these developments are environmental concerns, notably Mayor Fife’s lack of opposition to the EPA’s plan to deposit dioxin-laden Agent Orange sludge at the former PSE&G Gas Works plant. The proposed EPA site would be across the street from the residential neighborhood that the Pocket Park. The potential health risks posed by this sludge, juxtaposed with the proposed cannabis store, underscore contrasting health concerns in the community.

A Community at a Crossroads: The Role of Public Participation

As the Harrison Planning Board prepares to address these significant issues, the town stands at a crucial juncture. The decisions made will shape not only Harrison's physical landscape but also reflect the community's values and priorities. The public's input is seen as a vital component of this decision-making process, and residents' participation in the meeting is strongly encouraged. The outcomes of these discussions, influenced by community involvement, are keenly anticipated by those seeking a balance between development and preserving community health and safety.

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