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Anyone who’s driven the traffic-stopping, three-lanes merging into-two section of Route 17 between Route 80 and Route 4 probably has probably had very specific thoughts and comments about it that aren’t suitable to be repeated in front of the kids.But someone really does want your thoughts about it, specifically about the $97 million plan to banish the bottleneck by bu...
Anyone who’s driven the traffic-stopping, three-lanes merging into-two section of Route 17 between Route 80 and Route 4 probably has probably had very specific thoughts and comments about it that aren’t suitable to be repeated in front of the kids.
But someone really does want your thoughts about it, specifically about the $97 million plan to banish the bottleneck by building new bridges and adding that desperately needed third lane in Maywood, Paramus and Rochelle Park, between the Essex Street interchange in Maywood, and the driveway for the Garden State Plaza Mall.
The best thing is that process can be done from the comfort of your living room.
A virtual public information forum is being held by Bergen County about the proposed project. It started Jan. 19 , runs until Feb. 2, and can be watched online after a brief registration process that also allows viewers to make comments about it by using this link.
There are two projects in conjunction with the proposed widening – one is a prequel to perform preliminary work on the streets paralleling the Route 17 bottleneck that will be detours, including Rochelle Avenue, in Rochelle Park.
That early work to widen intersections and add turning lanes at four Rochelle Avenue intersections with Main and Essex streets in Lodi, Market Street in Saddle Brook and Central Avenue in Rochelle Park, is not the topic of the virtual hearing, said Derek Sands, a Bergen County spokesman.
Hearings or public outreach about that work will be handled by the municipal officials, he said. A $10 million allocation in the governor’s budget will fund work to improve Rochelle Avenue and connect streets before the bottleneck elimination project starts.
The virtual hearing being conducted is about the bigger Route 17 widening project, estimated to cost $97 million. It explains the reasons for the project, the need and expected benefits of moving traffic and eliminating pollution from idling vehicles stuck in traffic, county officials said.
The project would add one new lane in both directions and shoulders on both sides of a two-mile section of the highway. Each new lane increases capacity to move an additional 1,800 cars an hour on that section of Route 17, officials said. Adding shoulders also is a critical feature first responders said is needed, county officials have said.
To make that happen, the project also will replace five two lane bridges that date back to the 1930′s and are beyond their useful life, officials said.
A fix for this section of Route 17 had been studied and discussed in the past before going dormant for more than a decade. Bergen County jump started the process again when it completed its Local Concept Development Study in 2015, which makes it eligible for federal funds for future work. An $850,000 North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority grant funded that work.
This two-mile section of Route 17 is the only piece of highway that isn’t considered an interstate part of the national freight system, even though it physically goes to New York state. NJDOT traffic volume figures for 2018 said more than 118,000 vehicles a day travel that part of the highway and the section of Route 17 is categorized as “severely congested” by the state.
Questions and comments can also be emailed to Joseph Baladi, Bergen County Department of Planning and Engineering at [email protected].
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Bergen County will begin sport court improvements at three county parks to improve access to tennis, pickleball, and basketball courts, including park in Woodcliff Lake, Wallington, and Rochelle Park.Photo Credit: Rebecca Greene By TAPinto Hasbrouck Heights/Wood-Ridge/Teterboro StaffBERGEN COUNTY, NJ - Bergen County will begin "sport court" improvements at three county parks to improve access to tennis, pickleball, and basketball courts. The three parks undergoing improvements will be...
Bergen County will begin sport court improvements at three county parks to improve access to tennis, pickleball, and basketball courts, including park in Woodcliff Lake, Wallington, and Rochelle Park.Photo Credit: Rebecca Greene
By TAPinto Hasbrouck Heights/Wood-Ridge/Teterboro Staff
BERGEN COUNTY, NJ - Bergen County will begin "sport court" improvements at three county parks to improve access to tennis, pickleball, and basketball courts. The three parks undergoing improvements will be Wood Dale County Park in Woodcliff Lake, Samuel Nelkin County Park in Wallington, and Saddle River County Park in Rochelle Park. The projects were approved by the Bergen County Commissioners.
This project is part of the first round of sport court improvements planned for 2023. Improvements include resurfacing of pavements, improved and/or additional lighting, enhanced safety features such as quality fencing around the courts, as well as new sidewalks and improved efficiency of open space.
The completed recreation areas in all three parks will feature tennis and pickleball courts. Samuel Nelkin County Park and Saddle River County Park will also each gain a brand-new basketball court.
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All three projects are expected to be completed before the end of the calendar year.
“Parks play a huge role in the overall experience our visitors and residents have here in Bergen County,” said Commissioner Steve Tanelli. “Despite being one of the most densely populated counties in New Jersey, we have been able to preserve and enhance over 9,000 acres of parks.”
“The preservation of open space and enhancement of our parks system has been one of my top priorities as County Executive and throughout my tenure, we have taken extensive action to pursue projects that benefit both active and passive recreation enthusiasts alike,” said Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco. “Using the 2019 Parks Master Plan as our roadmap, my administration strives to maintain our positive momentum every year, pursuing and completing improvement projects, including the installation of these new sports courts for the benefit of our residents and visitors.”
PARAMUS, NJ - When New Jersey residents voted in support of legalizing adult-use cannabis by an overwhelming margin in 2020, Paramus voters were strong supporters, with over 61% voting in favor. Among the many benefits Paramus voters hoped to see from this new industry were well-regulated and controlled access to cannabis products,and the jobs and business opportunities this emerging market would create. Top of the list, however, was the prospect of tax relief. New Jersey cannabis sales have surpassed $70 million since launching on April 21 ...
PARAMUS, NJ - When New Jersey residents voted in support of legalizing adult-use cannabis by an overwhelming margin in 2020, Paramus voters were strong supporters, with over 61% voting in favor. Among the many benefits Paramus voters hoped to see from this new industry were well-regulated and controlled access to cannabis products,and the jobs and business opportunities this emerging market would create. Top of the list, however, was the prospect of tax relief. New Jersey cannabis sales have surpassed $70 million since launching on April 21 and will likely exceed $2 billion annually within the next three years. In just 3 months, cannabis sales have already generated over $1.5 million in state tax revenue.
In addition to the state tax that is imposed at the retail counter, municipalities can also assess their own tax of up to 2 percent of gross cannabis sales in their towns and collect these taxes directly for the benefit of the host municipality. Local governments have discretion as to how to use these funds for the benefit of their communities.
Paramus, however, has chosen to completely forgo this economic windfall. Instead of occupying a prominent position at the epicenter of this lucrative and growing new retail sector, Paramus has banned the sale of adult-use cannabis. Rather than optimizing our position as the shopping capital of New Jersey to help properly establish, and reap the maximum benefits, of this new industry, we are allowing our neighbors like Rochelle Park and Lodi to be earning what should be our share of cannabis tax revenues. Banning adult-use cannabis sales within the borough does nothing to prevent the possession or use of cannabis in Paramus. Our residents can legally and safely purchase cannabis in our neighboring communities, and will soon be able to have cannabis delivered to their homes. All we accomplish with this prohibition is giving away tax revenues to other towns.
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The established medical dispensary that has been operating on Route 4 in Paramus for 2 years did more than $800,000 in net sales in June 2022. In Bloomfield, where the same company just expanded its medical dispensary to adult use sales, sales for June 2022 exceeded its Paramus location by more than $3 million. That represents over $700,000 in lost tax revenue for Paramus annually. Rochelle Park, our neighboring town, has already reaped the tax benefits of their approved adult-use cannabis dispensary with a tax gain of approximately $300,000 since April 21. If Paramus approves adult use sales, the medical dispensary currently operating in the borough would potentially generate $1 million or more in annual revenue for the Borough’s budget given its superior location.
Paramus cannot afford to just leave this money on the table. While our budget finally reported a small surplus in 2021 for the first time since 2019, our budget is still recovering from the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Paramus residents will absorb a property tax increase next year, as they also deal with rising inflation and a wildly uncertain economy to which our local retail economy is particularly vulnerable. It is our duty to seize this rare opportunity to improve our municipal finances. Forgoing the sales and taxes created by the regulated cannabis industry is financially irresponsible and deprives us of critical funding to support Paramus’ infrastructure, schools and community centers.
On August 24, I will be introducing an ordinance that would permit the medical cannabis dispensary operating in Paramus to expand into the adult use market. I urge the Borough Council to support it. We cannot afford to continue forfeiting this significant revenue stream. This prohibition is not only hurting us economically, but is a rebuke of the voting majority who supported adult-use legalization, and a disservice to the taxpayers for whom this industry would provide much needed relief.
It has been a privilege to serve Paramus for the past 18 years, and I believe our economy and our community’s sustained growth stems from our ability to embrace forward-thinking ideas and opportunities. During my tenure as Mayor, I have made every effort to run Paramus like a business. It would be fiscally irresponsible for us not to embrace this industry. Paramus can still realize the benefits of being a first-mover in New Jersey’s burgeoning cannabis industry – but only if all its elected officials understand what is truly at stake.
Feb. 20, 2023 A change to the massive recreational marijuana bill in the Minnesota House was meant to soften objections by the state’s cities and counties.It hasn’t. At least not yet.The change would allow cities and counties to have dual licensing powers over retailers of cannabis products within their jurisdiction. While locals would have to issue licenses to any retailer licensed by the state, they could use their local license to enforce state rules on sales.Cities and counties could also charge a ...
Feb. 20, 2023
A change to the massive recreational marijuana bill in the Minnesota House was meant to soften objections by the state’s cities and counties.
It hasn’t. At least not yet.
The change would allow cities and counties to have dual licensing powers over retailers of cannabis products within their jurisdiction. While locals would have to issue licenses to any retailer licensed by the state, they could use their local license to enforce state rules on sales.
Cities and counties could also charge a small license fee — no more than $200 — that would be charged on top of the state’s $250 license fee. And their co-jurisdiction would not apply to growing or manufacturing businesses located within city or county boundaries.
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“The state does the lion’s share of the work on this,” Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, said of his legalization bill, House File 100. “The local jurisdiction has no discretion. If the state grants a license, the local unit of government must also issue a license.”
“They are better situated to do the enforcement,” he said of the cities and counties. “Because you need both licenses, if a local unit of government catches a retailer selling to kids or selling products that are not approved (by the state) they can yank the license and shut down the store.”
Only public-facing licensees would need local licenses under the new language — cannabis retailers, cannabis microbusinesses that can both grow cannabis in small quantities and sell to customers, low-potency hemp-based edibles retailers and medical cannabis retailers.
The amendment also makes a major change to enforcement of state laws on marijuana. Not only can cities and counties license these new stores and enforce laws, in several areas they are required to lead on enforcement. They must do compliance checks, they must do checks on age verification rules, they must conduct stings to assure no minors are buying products, and they must do inspections at least once a year.
Locals are allowed to fine retailers up to $2,000 for each violation.
“His amendment is basically a way to say, here are some teeth for local governments to say we’ll have a quasi license and you can be temporarily suspended until the state can deal with it,” said Matt Hilgart, a lobbyist for the Association of Minnesota Counties.
But they can’t, as city and county lobbyists have requested, completely opt out of retail sales. As of now, there is no clarity whether they can enforce general zoning ordinances or limit the number of stores in any area of cities or counties. This is especially an issue in border towns that might have customers try to make purchases from neighboring states.
The bill does have restrictions on location stores near schools, parks and playgrounds. But those are put in play when the state considers licenses, though cities and counties can comment on license applications.
The reluctance to give cities and counties too much authority and any licensing is based on a basic premise by sponsors: Too much burden on new cannabis businesses could increase costs and put them at an economic disadvantage to illegal sellers.
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“It’s a battle right now,” said Hilgart. “The skepticism that too much local government involvement will deter businesses from setting up shop and potentially create an illicit market and us saying we don’t think that is founded.”
The law changes by Stephenson do allow cities and counties to pull licenses and close stores. But those decisions must be quickly reviewed by the state, which can reverse those decisions or change punishments.
While they support the changes, lobbyists for the state cities and counties associations say they are not enough.
“We see the amendment as a step in the right direction,” said Alex Hassel, a lobbyist for the League of Minnesota Cities. The local registration is similar to what is now required of other retailers and gives cities a way of knowing which stores are properly registered and which might be illegal pop-ups. But the ultimate authority over who is licensed, how many stores are licensed and where they locate is with the state, not the cities.
The cities also appreciate the authority to do compliance checks, having testified at committee hearings that residents expect city officials to respond to complaints about businesses acting illegally. But the requirements in the amendment add to city to-do lists and will bring extra costs that aren’t covered by license fees.
“That’s a big lift for local governments,” Hassel said.
Hilgart said the amendments only respond to some of the concerns raised. The counties have been pushing for local control, a strong state regulatory framework and “some recognition of local government costs.”
The counties agree with the premise that the new businesses should have relatively low licensing and taxation costs to compete with illegal sellers. So rather than have additional taxes at the local level as happens in some other states, the counties are proposing appropriations from the state.
“We’re paying for all of our state agencies in this bill,” he said, referring to appropriations for the new Office of Cannabis Management along with money for the departments of agriculture, economic development, public safety, corrections and others.
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He wants the bill to recognize local costs and provide perhaps two to four percent of the revenue from a proposed 8% excise tax to cities and counties.
If Stephenson — along with the lead Senate sponsor Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville — are not interested in local government opt outs, “will you at least let us exhibit our local zoning authorities to their full capacity and have some kind of reasonable limitation on license numbers?” Hilgart asked.
Driving Route 17 between Route 80 and Route 4 can be described in two words, nasty and frustrating. It’s a busy section between Maywood and Paramus that maddeningly narrows to two lanes in each direction.One driver described it as a “nightmare parade of brake lights in both directions, 24/7.” A fix for this section of Route 17 had been studied and discussed before ...
Driving Route 17 between Route 80 and Route 4 can be described in two words, nasty and frustrating. It’s a busy section between Maywood and Paramus that maddeningly narrows to two lanes in each direction.
One driver described it as a “nightmare parade of brake lights in both directions, 24/7.” A fix for this section of Route 17 had been studied and discussed before going dormant for more than a decade.
But the 2023 state budget is breathing life into the longstanding proposals to eliminate the bottlenecks.
“Route 17 goes from four to two lanes and goes through this heavily congested area and then goes back to four lanes,” said Thomas J. Duch, Bergen County administrator. “It should have been done a long time ago.”
The multi-year project is going to start on a local road that parallels Route 17 by preparing it to handle expected detouring traffic when construction starts.
The bigger state project would eliminate a bottleneck caused by three 1930s era narrow bridges, said Steve Schapiro, a N.J. Department of Transportation spokesperson. Two of the narrow bridges take the highway over train tracks and another over a local street, he said.
The larger “Route 17 Bottleneck Alignment Alternate 3A” is a separate safety improvement and congestion relief project to widen nearly 2 miles of Route 17 in Maywood, Rochelle Park and Paramus and replace three bridges, Schapiro said.
How bad is it?
This 2-mile section of Route 17 is the only piece of highway that isn’t considered an interstate part of the national freight system, even though it physically goes to New York state, said Joseph Baladi, division head - planning of the Bergen County Department of Planning & Engineering.
“We don’t want to put a Band-Aid on the bridges. A lot of tractor-trailers use this (highway) to go up to I-287,” he said. “We get all these 18-wheelers and heavy trucks going through this narrow section.”
That section of Route 17 also has poor visibility and lacks highway shoulders. NJDOT traffic volume figures for 2018 said more than 118,000 vehicles a day travel that part of the highway.
“The county sought a $10 million allocation in the governor’s budget to address the central arteries parallel to the Route 17 bottleneck,” Duch said. “The funding will be used to enhance public safety before construction to expand Route 17.”
That work will widen intersections and add turning lanes at four Rochelle Avenue intersections with Main and Essex streets in Lodi, Market Street in Saddle Brook and Central Avenue in Rochelle Park, Baladi said. The county studied and came up with concept plans funded with a $850,000 North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority grant, Duch said.
Bergen County completed its Local Concept Development Study in 2015, which makes it eligible for federal funds for future work, said Melissa Hayes, an NJTPA spokeswoman. The current state Transportation Improvement Program has a total of $16 million allocated for the local project and projects construction to start in 2025.
An exact start date depends on completing final designs and county officials are working with municipal officials.
The work on Rochelle Avenue will also alleviate traffic problems that happen now when there’s a problem on Route 17, Duch said
“If there’s an accident, traffic diverts (from Route 17) to the local roads, it’s become a problem,” he said. “Rochelle Avenue is the only one that parallels Route 17.”
Bergen County is conducting the concept development phase of the widening portion of the project which is expected to completed in spring 2023, Schapiro said. That study is investigating how to widen Route 17 from two lanes to three lanes and add shoulders in each direction, Schapiro said.
Once that phase is completed, NJDOT will take over and the project will move into Preliminary Engineering, which has $3.5 million budgeted for the work, he said.
Preliminary Engineering is expected to take approximately two years when the project advances to final design. Construction is expected to begin in Fiscal Year 2028 at an estimated construction cost is $97 million, Schapiro said.
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